SALT LAKE CITY — Balance beam is rarely the starting point of choice for most gymnastics teams.
There's usually a groan involved when coaches learn that their team will begin a competition on beam because it's an event that requires controlled energy, and that can be hard to come by when the nerves of getting under way come into play. For that reason, most like to start on vault and be able to channel the nerves and explosiveness.
But Utah will open Saturday night's NCAA Norman, Okla., regional on balance beam — and with a team that is half freshmen.
This year, though, Ute coaches Greg and Megan Marsden aren't overly concerned about drawing the start on beam Saturday.
"It might be OK," said Megan, the beam coach who had three freshmen in her beam lineup in Utah's last meet, two of them (Mary Beth Lofgren, Nansy Damianova) anchoring the set.
Ute beamers are ranked eighth in the NCAA with Lofgren tied for 13th individually, and Megan Marsden has tried to put a positive spin on the draw. "I've told the girls that I think it's nice to be able to go into beam as the first event — upbeat, positive and ready to set the tone for the night. As opposed to going to beam and having to try to keep things going well or do better there because something hasn't gone well."
She's also told them that everyone has to do beam sometime during the meet. "It doesn't matter really when you do it. If we do it well, we'll be happy. If we don't do it well, we won't be very happy, and that would be true no matter when it comes in the meet," Megan said.
Freshman Corrie Lothrop said she's fine with that starting spot. "I think it's good. Beam has been a strong event for us as a team.
"Any order they give us, we'll make the best of it and keep our heads together and do the best that we can," said Lothrop.
ALL NEW: The regional format will be completely new to all six of the Ute freshmen. It's a long evening, each team getting two byes.
But this Ute team has so far handled every new circumstance very well.
"At least so far this year, the more newness seems to be better," Mrs. Marsden said. "It's kind of a breath of fresh air.
'We've given the freshmen the information they need about the slight differences in the postseason, and they usually only need to be told something once, and they have that kind of in their mind and adjust."
Greg Marsden agrees. "This has been a group that seems to not be rattled by those things," he said.
"We haven't known what to expect this whole year," said Lothrop, "so I think regionals is just another meet — go in not really knowing too much and just taking it like every other meet."
ANKLE OK: Lothrop said she went through a full week of practices last week at 100 percent, though she didn't want to "jinx it" by saying her ankle will be fine. She has something floating in the ankle that will require surgery in the offseason. She never knows if it will float into a sensitive spot and incapacitate her, but she hopes to do all-around Saturday. She is Utah's top all-arounder with a career high of 39.50.
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