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College gymnastics: Utes, Cougars hosting meets Friday

By Melissa Yack

For The Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Feb. 23 2012 10:11 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — All roads to the 2012 Pac-12 gymnastics' championship go through here.

The Red Rocks are not only the highest-ranked league team at No. 5, but they will also host the league championship on March 24. Though Utah is accustomed to competing against the nation's best, it is the first time they will compete for a conference championship of this magnitude.

"Having a conference championship to compete for is helpful from a number of different perspectives," said Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden. "We will get more exposure for recruiting, and have an additional championship to compete for. It also will help us prepare for Regionals and the NCAA Championships."

The Red Rocks are looking for their first conference home win after losing to UCLA and beating Arizona State on the road earlier in the season.

Though the Pac-12 title is based on the championship meet results, there still is pride on the line during the regular season. Utah opens its Pac-12 home season Friday against No. 12 Stanford.

USU, BYU, SUU COMPETE IN TRI-MEET: The Aggies, Cougars and Thunderbirds face off in an in-state tri-meet Saturday at 1 p.m. in Provo. BYU is currently ranked No. 36 in the national rankings, while Utah State is No. 37 and SUU No. 40.

The Cougars fell to No. 14 Arizona on the road last week, while Utah State defeated Sacramento State at home and SUU had a bye. The three teams have been bitten by the injury bug this season, but look to finish the season strong and qualify for Regionals.

Utah State coach Jeff Richards said he couldn't have asked for a better response from his team after suffering the injuries.

"We had some really doubtful moments earlier in the year when we lost some gymnasts, where I started wondering how we would do this season," said Richards. "We are such a young team, but our gymnasts have rallied. We knew the talent was there, we just had to put it together quickly because of the injuries and our youth."

Sarah Landes leads the Aggies and ranks second in all-around for the WAC. Rebecca Holliday and Amelia Montoya are second and third on bars in the league, while Paige Jones is third in vault.

Meanwhile, the Thunderbirds' Alyssa Click is first on beam and second on floor for the WAC. Teammate Michaela Chernoch ranks first on floor.

"This is the first time in a couple of years that I think any of the teams could win this tri-meet," said Richards.

"It should be exciting."

Pac-12 home opener

Stanford (7-2) at Utah (5-1)

Huntsman Center, Friday February 23rd, 7 p.m.

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