Women's gymnastics: Utes eager to face regional field

By Melissa Yack

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, March 26 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

Stephanie McAllister dismounts from the bars as the University of Utah competes.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

SALT LAKE CITY — Though Monday's NCAA gymnastics selection show proved somewhat anticlimactic for Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden, he admitted he is still as excited as ever.

Being the seasoned pro he is, Marsden had already figured a best guess of No. 5 Nebraska and No. 17 Minnesota joining the eighth-ranked Red Rocks in the NCAA Regional Championships on Saturday, April 7, starting at 6 p.m. But the final three teams were a surprise since teams are divided into three groups and then placed geographically.

Rounding out the six squads who will compete at the Huntsman Center are No. 24 Iowa State, Arizona State and San Jose State.

The regional draw gives Utah a second shot at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers beat the Red Rocks in the Huntsman Center 197.6-197.45 earlier in the month. They captured the Big 10 championship last weekend.

"We really enjoyed that team," said Marsden. "I see a lot of similarities in terms of coaching styles. Both staffs really enjoy each other and respect each other. They are a really good team and we look forward to having another crack at them."

Marsden is also excited to welcome Minnesota, who is coached by Meg Stephenson and her husband, Jim, a volunteer coach for the Gophers. Both of them are former assistants of Marsden's, and the three of them have remained close friends.

"I actually called them yesterday and expressed our excitement about the possibility of them coming," said Marsden. "They said the same thing and hoped it would work out."

Utah, making its 37th consecutive regional appearance, is one of six regional host sites. The Red Rocks have won 26 regional titles and are coming off a second-place finish in the Pac-12 Championships last weekend.

Marsden is hopeful fans will carry over their record-setting attendance from last week's conference championship meet into next week's regional.

"This is a little tougher sell, but I hope they'll continue to support us," said Marsden. "Without question they make a difference for us and our team seems to really thrive on the enthusiasm from our fans. If we are going to have any home-court advantage, we need their help."

Utah opens its regional on the sidelines with a bye the first rotation. It follows with floor, in which it hit a season-best 49.525 at the Pac-12 Championships. Utah then has vault before another bye. It then closes out the meet with its two up-and-down events from last weekend's championships.

The Red Rocks hit a season-best of 49.6 on bars, but then had to count a fall on beam — its final event for regionals.

The top two teams and the top two all-around competitors (who are not on an advancing team) from each regional will receive an automatic berth to the national championships in Duluth, Ga., April 20-22, hosted by the Gwinnett Center and Georgia Tech.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah gymnastics fans will get to cheer for more than just the Red Rocks on April 7 during the NCAA Regional Championships. Individual qualifiers from Utah State, BYU and Southern Utah were announced Monday and placed in the University of Utah regional at the Huntsman Center.

Competing in the at-large all-around will be BYU's Raquel Willman and Utah State's Sarah Landes, Paige Jones and Rebecca Holliday. Landes will rotate with the University of Utah gymnastics team, following the order of bye, floor, vault, bye, bars and beam. Local individual event specialists who qualified include BYU's Natalie Pickard (vault and bars) and Krysten Koval (floor), and Southern Utah's Alyssa Click (beam).

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