Red Rocks gymnastics: Utes claim regional title, nationals berth
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Sometimes redemption just feels oh so good.
On what Kyndal Robarts dubbed "the real senior night," Utah enjoyed a little redemption, defeating Nebraska 196.825-196.525 to earn the NCAA Salt Lake Regional title and end a three-meet loss skid to the Huskers that included the regular-season senior night last month in the Huntsman Center.
Performing in front of the Red Rocks fans for the last time, seniors Robarts and Stephanie McAllister boosted Utah to a strong start on floor. Robarts hit 9.9 to anchor the event, tying her career best and tying for the individual title. McAllister tied for third overall with a 9.875 that set up Robarts, and led to the best team floor score (49.325) on the night.
"It helped that I went last," said Robarts. "There was no pressure because five people did their job. That's why they put me last so I could go without worrying about it. I've kind of had a few mess-ups lately."
"Very important to get the snowball rolling down the hill," said Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden. "You gather momentum as the meet goes on if you can do it."
The theme of good starts and strategic changes in the lineup carried on throughout the meet, as Utah gained momentum. It never trailed and didn't have a fall on the night.
"It was great to finally put a meet together and hit 24-of-24," said Marsden. "I've always said when we do that most of the time we are going to be happy with the outcome, and we certainly are tonight."
On a night when things were clicking for Utah, two of its most important routines didn't even count. The first was Becky Tutka's opening floor routine that garnered a 9.775. Marsden credited Tutka for being a key all season with a tough routine that consistently sets up the rest of the lineup for higher scores. The other was Robarts' beam of 9.725 that sealed the victory in the final rotation.
"It was good for us," said Marsden about hitting the beam routines. "It was the event that cost us the Pac-12 Championships, and one that we struggled with off and on at times this year."
Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden had moved Corrie Lothrop to lead off the beam, a spot she started in earlier in the season because of her consistency. Lothrop gave Utah a solid start and the next five gymnasts followed suit. Kassandra Lopez and Mary Beth Lofgren found a little redemption of their own on beam, having been the two gymnasts who fell at the Pac-12 Championships. Each hit for 9.825 to tie for second place Saturday. Lopez was moved from the lead to the anchor spot.
"It was nice that everyone hit before me, but I did put some pressure on myself because I did want to do better than I did at Pac-12," said Lopez.
Robarts said it was important for the Red Rocks to get a win because they had gone through a winless bout lately. Utah lost its final two-regular season meets and then fell to UCLA in the Pac-12 Championships.
"It was nice to end on a high note," said McAllister.
Utah and Nebraska now advance to the NCAA Championships on April 20. It's possible the two may end up in the same session and face off for a third-time this season.
Megan Marsden was named NCAA North Central Regional Coach of the Year. Cortni Beers performed well on bars and beam.
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