It's always been a puzzle to the Ute gymnastics team and its fans that Daria Bijak, who once finished eighth all-around in the World Championships, never seemed to get the scores they thought she deserved for her unique and difficult routines.
That finally changed last Friday night when Bijak, a senior, got the first 9.95 of her NCAA career for her floor routine, a major reason for Utah's 196.55-196.50 victory over Georgia in the Huntsman Center.
"We've talked about this over the years," said coach Greg Marsden. "She feels like she's doing something unique and doing things with a lot more amplitude than many people do — and seems to not get rewarded for that.
"I know that was exciting for her."
Bijak has always been quiet about her frustration, but she admitted, "It feels good. I always felt like I could not tell what they deduct.
Finally, I don't know — I like it a lot," she said.
"Everyone is telling me my first pass is so high and so cool because no one else does it, and the last pass is a D (difficulty levels range from an easy A to a most-difficult E), too, so it's not like I don't have the value in my routine.
"So it makes me feel good that I finally got a high score. Just hope I'll get it more often than just once," Bijak said.
She thought back to her freshman and sophomore years and said she's pretty much done the same routine the same way from the beginning, sticking with the unique skills even if she wasn't rewarded.
Friday night during warmups, though, she did make one change in her middle pass, doing a whip-half followed by a half-layout somersault instead of the full she usually does. It does not change the value of her routine, but it allowed her to see the floor before landing, and she thought the landing might have been slightly cleaner.
Marsden said it made no difference, but she might be more comfortable that way.
At least Bijak has some real hope as the Utes continue the season Friday night at the University of Washington.
"I feel now that they gave me a high score, maybe they are willing to give me a high score more often, if I do a good job," she said. "I know I still have things to work on in my floor routine, but at least I see that I am able to get a 9.95."
ANOTHER PUZZLE: While Bijak's puzzle was solved, at least for one meet, now the Utes are puzzled about senior Jamie Deetscreek's 9.75 score Friday for what seemed a fairly clean routine.
Co-coach Megan Marsden put in an inquiry, and the judges wrote that deductions were taken for Deetscreek's dance execution. "They weren't specific, like if it was her leaps, although that's where typically deductions happen in dance," Megan said.
"I've looked at video, and you could probably come up with a couple of very slight deductions, but I didn't see anything major, so it's hard to understand that." But she noted it's just the opinion of that judging panel.
Greg Marsden said the Utes will try to use the information wisely. "We are taking a hard look at her leap combinations and her dance difficulty and trying to refine that and improve that wherever we can," he said.
"We'll listen to them and try to figure out what they're seeing and then do the best we can to get better at it."
He told the team to look at it, "as if they're doing us a favor pointing out something. It's something that we should pay attention to and get better at."
RANKINGS: Junior Kyndal Robarts remained 10th in the all-around rankings this week, averaging 39.212, but Bijak moved from 20th to 16th (39.125) and Deetscreek from 23rd to 17th (39.10) with Southern Utah's Elise Wheeler (39.05) 22nd.
Robarts' 9.95 vault Friday moved her up to third with a 9.908 average.
Senior Annie DiLuzio's 9.875 floor Friday dropped her from first in the country to third (9.90 average), tied with Bijak and several others in that event.
NCAA women's gymnastics poll
By season average
Team average high score
1. Alabama 196.458 197.450
2. Oklahoma 196.400 196.650
3. Utah195.992 196.550
4. Florida 195.967 196.575
5. Stanford 195.833 196.425
6. Oregon State 195.817 196.125
7. UCLA 195.744 196.600
8. Georgia 195.717 196.500
9. Nebraska 195.642 196.025
10. Arkansas 195.608 195.925
11. Missouri 195.583 196.400
12. Kentucky 195.187 195.525
13. LSU 195.125 195.650
14. Iowa State 194.883 196.000
15. Auburn 194.808 195.325
16. Denver 194.808 195.575
17. Michigan 194.600 194.875
18. Southern Utah194.575 195.050
19. Penn State 194.458 195.3251 comment on this story
20. Arizona 194.333 SC 195.675
31. BYU192.775 193.050
47. Utah State190.050 191.650SUU gymnasts honored
CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah's Elise Wheeler and Melissa Johnson have been named the Western Athletic Conference Gymnast and Specialist of the week, respectively, after their performances against Utah State last weekend.