SALT LAKE CITY — Red Rocks fans will get to meet the new kids on the block Friday when Utah opens its home season against Utah State in the Huntsman Center. The five freshmen, who helped preseason No. 5 Utah nearly upset No. 1 UCLA last weekend, are equally excited for the introduction.
"The meet at UCLA had way more energy than what I'm used to, and I think home meets are going to be even more exciting with the big crowd," said Georgia Dabritz. "I'm excited and nervous, but want to do well."
Dabritz highlighted the freshman routines against the Bruins, earning a win on the floor with a 9.9 score. Though the win was impressive out of the shoot, the Massachusetts native struggled through her first collegiate effort on the bars.
"I was really nervous the first event. Bars is usually my best event and I had some troubles," said Dabritz. "I think vault helped me feel good after because it's fast to get through."
If you scratch the 9.35 Dabritz had on bars (she notched a 9.875 on vault), the debut by the freshmen was impressive. Kailah Delaney posted a 9.9 on the vault, while Tory Wilson earned a 9.85 in the same event. Wilson was originally slated to be only exhibition on vault, but was added last minute to lead off. Kassandra Lopez competed on the bars and on beam, garnering 9.75 and 9.8 scores, while Becky Tutka rounded out the group on the floor with a 9.8.
"They did fantastic and really even have more places to contribute, so there will continue to be battles in the lineup," said co-head coach Megan Marsden about her freshman's opening performance.
They all do very good gymnastics, which is exciting for us. We say regularly in the gym 'she's on our team' and that 'she's here and not somewhere else so we don't have to compete against her'. We are glad we recruited them here."
Prior to Utah, all five had strong showings at the Junior Olympic National Championships. Dabritz won the 2011 all-around title on top of gold on the bars and floor, while Delaney, Lopez and Wilson also earned top-10 finishes. Tutka had strong showings in 2009 and 2010 at the Championships.
"We all have individual strengths," said Dabritz. "Each of us can help out in different ways."
The fabulous five are expected to compete for spots in the event lineups all season, leaving co-head coaches Greg and Megan Marsden a little stressed and at the same time ecstatic. The two coaches went through a similar situation last season with six freshmen on the roster, but the hopeful difference between last season and this year was last year's team was plagued with injuries. This made setting the lineup much easier because as Greg Marsden put it, if you were healthy, you were on the floor. This season, the mix of seasoned veterans, an experienced sophomore class, talented newcomers and the hope for good health will make for some tough lineup decisions.
"Last year's freshman group was really good, and I would say this year's is comparable. It bodes well for the future and they could make for an exciting year this year," said Greg Marsden.
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