Utah gymnastics co-coach Megan Marsden was wondering what would happen last Saturday when junior Stephanie McAllister took a fall on balance beam at NCAA Regional in the Norman, Okla..
The Utes have had a fall on beam in almost every meet this season, but McAllister was usually the rock-steady one who saved them.
And the beam coach, Marsden, was concerned.
"They have shown that they are pretty rock-solid. Even with a fall, they all fight back," Marsden said. "But I wasn't certain if (McAllister) was the catalyst for that, so when she went down, I thought, 'Hmm, now is this the fighting group no matter who has the fall, or is (McAllister) kind of their leader, and this is going to be trouble?' But, to their credit, it wasn't."
The next person up, Cortni Beers, had trouble with her series but stayed on for 9.675 in a very low-scoring event, and freshman Mary Beth Lofgren and senior Gael Mackie scored 9.80 and 9.825, respectively, to get the Utes back in business.
Mackie's performance, agreed both Megan Marsden and her co-coach/husband, Greg, was a real save. Beam is where her nerves have derailed her most, but not this time.
"Gael completely bailed us out on beam and probably did the best beam of her career here," said Greg Marsden.
"She surprised the daylights out of us and had the routine of her life," said Megan Marsden. "The score didn't reflect that, but beam was the tightest event of the meet. She had a 9.85 and was second place in the meet.
"It's been her nemesis, and to overcome it in such grand fashion at a time when it meant so much — it wasn't just her overcoming things. It was, 'If you go down, it could possibly cost us going to nationals.' " Mackie's beam set may have given the Utes the resolve to come from way behind and seize that second national qualifying spot.
"I can't tell you exactly how much Gael's performance played into the rest of the evening," Megan Marsden said. "We went to a bye from there, but there's no question that floor (Utah's second event) was our best floor of the year.
"I felt like our girls continued to keep up the fight, and I felt like Gael gave them that. She motivated that team to come out of the break on fire."
IT'S OK TO FALL: Megan Marsden called McAllister's fall "completely acceptable," since it was her first of the year on beam. She had, in fact, done a school-record 72 straight routines without a miss until then.
"She has bailed us out over and over, and for her to take a turn, that's OK," Marsden said.
The fall was, in fact, somewhat of a relief to Marsden.
"I'm not glad, but I just hate for kids to build such a record that it becomes the focus," she said. "It all becomes a big to-do over, 'When's the miss going to come?' She got that out of the way. Understandable. Everybody has a time when they aren't perfect on balance beam."
LOTHROP'S OK, TOO: Greg Marsden hopes that the Utes have figured out how to deal with the floating chip in freshman Corrie Lothrop's ankle. She was able to train hard last week and finished third in the regional all-around. She wears a walking boot when not training, gets taped extra for practices and competition and wears a night splint that keeps the foot flexed for sleeping.
Extending the foot seems to be what allows the chip to move into a delicate spot. It's painful even if the chip behaves, but "she tolerates that pretty well," he said.
FUTURE SITES: Utah will again host a regional next year along with Auburn, Illinois, Arkansas, North Carolina State and Washington. The 2012 NCAA championships will be at Duluth, Ga., hosted by Georgia Institute of Technology. Regionals in 2012 will be at Oklahoma, Oregon State, Florida, Ohio State, West Virginia and Alabama, with nationals at UCLA.
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