USU, Utah Utes gymnastics: Red Rocks take down Aggies
Both teams achieve high scores despite multiple injuries
LOGAN — Both teams started the night with an injury, but both the Utah and Utah State gymnastics teams made their way through the night pretty well.
"It's kind of been what it has been," said Ute coach Greg Marsden after a 196.55-193.15 win over the Aggies in the Smith Spectrum.
"They're (his team) just a gutty group of kids. We had Corrie (Lothrop) out of the lineup and Victoria (Shanely) out of the lineup, and other people stepped up and did a nice job.
"It wasn't perfect, obviously, but I just can't be disappointed in the amount of heart and never-give-up attitude that this group has."
Lothrop's bad ankle began acting up on her during the week, and Marsden fears she has something floating around in it that may require more than just rest. Shanley's back tightened up on her in warmups, so she was pulled from the Ute lineup.
The changes put senior Gael Mackie into the all-around for the first time this season, and she scored 39.025 with a 9.575 on the first vault she's competed in two years.
"It wasn't my best, but I think it was still pretty good," she said.
Beam had Mackie the most pleased, as she scored 9.875 and said she got her confidence back, partly because the team was counting heavily on her with a depleted vault lineup.
For the Aggies, Rebecca Holliday had to scratch on vault after hyperextending a knee in warmups. She thought she'd be able to do two other events, but coach Jeff Richards said he decided to pull her. That left USU scrambling. He did not replace Holliday on vault but used Amanda Watamaniuk on bars and Chelsea Marquardt on beam.
"We had some good stuff tonight, a couple of highs," Richards said, noting a 38.60 all-around career high, and Jacki Dillon, one of two Aggie seniors in their final home meet, had a career-high 39.025, finishing up with a career-high 9.85 on floor.
"She just always anchors us. What a rock," Richards said of Dillon.
Both teams helped themselves in the Regional Qualifying Score category.
Despite the scrambling, it was Utah's best road score, and the total for the Aggies was their second-highest of the season.
The Utes, who dropped out of the rankings this week because they didn't have enough road scores, now have enough, and they were hoping to pop a big one in Logan because the RQS is used for postseason seeding. When the injuries happened, it left them shy on beamers, but Jacq Johnson scored 9.75 in her first-ever beam to count, and that gave her a 39.225 in her first-ever all-around to count.
Ute Stephanie McAllister won the all-around at 39.475, tying her career high.
And the Utes may have found another all-arounder, as freshman Nansy Damianova did three events well and scored 9.825 in a beam exhibition. Had that score counted, she would have totaled 39.425, thanks to her first career 9.90 on a strong floor routine.
"Finally," Damianova said. "I felt way better. First pass, I didn't feel it was what I wanted; but all the rest, my second pass was good, my jumps were better and I was really tired on my last pass, but I just made it through and was really happy with it."
The beam, though exhibition, was a bit of a breakthrough for Damianova, a Canadian Olympian who has always had some trouble there.
"She's beautiful on that event, too," said Marsden. "It's just not one she likes or has confidence in. This was a big step forward for her. If this is a reflection tonight of where we're going, and we can gain some momentum and gain some consistency and confidence on that event, it's a big advantage to us down the road."
Johnson also built confidence.
"I think I did pretty well," she said, "I was really excited. I was hoping that I'd be able to (do all-around) sometime this year. I kept things pretty much how I did in practice."
Utah State's next opponent is Boise State, while Utah's is No. 1 Florida.
Utah State has three more meets — at Boise State Sunday at 2 p.m., at Cal Fullerton March 4 and at Southern Utah March 12 — before the WAC championships March 19 at San Jose.
Utah completes its home season next week when No. 1-ranked Florida visits the Huntsman Center Friday at 7 p.m. The Utes will have two road meets after that, at Oregon State March 12 and at BYU March 18.
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