SALT LAKE CITY — For a number of years, the University of Utah women's gymnastics team has gone to the national championships burning to get that 11th team title.
The team with the most national championships in history (tied with Georgia with 10 each since 2009) hasn't won one since 1995.
"There's been a number of years where we thought we were good enough to win and didn't quite get it done, sometimes through our own fault and sometimes through what we couldn't control," said coach Greg Marsden.
"I think that was tough. I think that really wore on people."
So when Utah opens at the 2011 NCAA Championships on Friday at 4 p.m. MDT in Cleveland, it will be with a different approach.
"We tried to get back on a philosophy," said co-coach Megan Marsden, "of just going and doing your thing and attempting to give ourselves a chance. There's been some years we did as well as those teams could possibly have done, but because they didn't win, they felt like that was a failure, and that bothers us tremendously."
The Marsdens decided that focusing on an ultimate goal is not the way to approach things now.
Especially with a team with six freshmen doing nearly half the routines and with the team's best gymnast (Kyndal Robarts) sidelined with knee problems and with its top all-arounder (freshman Corrie Lothrop, 39.50 high) still battling a floating chip in an ankle.
"With this group," said Megan Marsden, "we aren't focusing on outcome at all.
"We're going to try to go in on Friday, and we'll start with bars. And then we'll take on beam. And then we'll take on floor and take on vault and see where we are at that point."
Greg Marsden said he does think Utah can make Saturday night's Super Six team championships.
"I do," he said. "I just think we've got to be at our best. I just think there are so many strong teams now that you have to be at your best to move forward."
But if that doesn't happen, as long as the Utes do their best, "Then we'll accept it and be happy with the results," he said.
Junior all-arounder Stephanie McAllister (39.475 high) experienced the disappointment of the last couple of years and embraces this new outlook.
"The more we think about outcome, the more it takes away from the progression," she said. "We've tried not to think about what the result is.
We've talked about doing what we have control of and letting the rest just play out."
McAllister, who tumbled from beam at the Norman (Okla.) NCAA Regional on April 2 — her first miss after a school-record 72 "hit" routines — said she thinks the pressure was left at the regional because in that meet, only two teams moved on to nationals. The Utes qualified, so they can relax, and she can, too.
"I feel like at nationals I'm just going to go in and take my time and do what I need to do and let it all happen," McAllister said.
McAllister is from Indianapolis and expects to have at least 15 family members and friends at the meet.
Lothrop said her ankle's feeling well, and she's gotten to train more than she did before the regional, where she placed third in the all-around (39.225). "I feel even better going into nationals," she said, "and I think the team looks great. And I'm just excited to see how we can pull together for the last two or three times."
The NCAA championships are still novel to the freshman, and the new philosophy seems to be working for her.
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