Utah Utes gymnastics: Trio of seniors lead with different styles
SALT LAKE CITY — "An interesting combination" is the phrase Utah gymnastics co-head coach Megan Marsden used to describe her three seniors. But the coach means it in a good way, and admits it's been a great ride with Cortni Beers, Stephanie McAllister and Kyndal Robarts. The ride continues Friday when No. 7 Utah hosts No. 6 Nebraska on senior night. Red Rock fans and the team will honor the three seniors prior to the meet even though they won't say goodbye just yet — Utah will host the Pac-12 championships and NCAA Regionals.
Marsden laughed when explaining the only thing the three seniors have in common is just that — they are seniors. But it's the differences each has brought to the program that make the coach portray a huge smile.
"Each of them in their own ways have been critical to our success," said Marsden. "Kyndal, as more of an experienced person coming back from the injury for the extra year, does a lot of leading with the young gymnasts as in 'I've been there.' Stephanie's leadership is more around her outlook on life — bubbly, fun and keeping a good attitude in the gym. Cortni is a quiet leader. She does more behind the scenes, but I often catch her helping those having a hard time in the gym."
Overall, the seniors have accounted for nearly half of Utah's individual victories in 2012, and each has only fallen once this season.
Beers has become a specialist for Utah on bars and beam, recording career bests on both events this season and four of her seven career victories. The Oklahoma native earned Utah's first conference award, Special Performance of the Week, after setting the career bests against BYU.
McAllister has become a three-time All-American and convincing all-arounder. She holds the school record for routines without a fall (72) and leads the team with 24 career victories. The Indiana native has been Utah's top all-arounder in four meets and is tied with a team-high 10 victories this season.
Robarts, also an All-American, came back for her senior season after a knee injury last year. She's no longer competing in bars and all-around, but has posted back-to-back career best vault scores of 9.975 in the past two meets. The efforts were both recognized by the conference as its Special Performance of the Week. The Texas native has also recorded wins on beam this year.
"They've been great leaders," said sophomore Corrie Lothrop. "They're all also really funny and bring humor to every practice. There is always something someone does in practice that's funny, and it's usually a senior."
The three seniors have taken light of the fact they are leading a team with 11 underclassmen and one junior. Despite the youth, they've noted this team has great potential because of its talent and depth. But as of late, Utah has struggled to put an entire meet together, leaving the seniors' biggest challenge ahead of them as the regular season winds down over the next two weeks.
"I definitely think it will be important to get a complete meet under our belt before we go into postseason, and to boost the team's confidence," said McAllister. "This team is so talented, but we have struggled lately. I think the seniors will be able to help with our mental approach and with putting a whole meet together."
As for Friday, "I feel like it will be sad for the seniors, but it will also be exciting," said McAllister. "The atmosphere on senior night is really cool in the Huntsman Center."
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