DULUTH, Ga. — Utah coach Greg Marsden could hardly believe it. His gymnasts scored more points than they did a year ago but still wound up fifth at the NCAA Gymnastics Championships.
"I thought we fielded a better team, and we did such a better job," Marsden said with a shrug. "To finish in the same place is a reflection on the other teams that are here."
Utah scored 197.375 points, a sizable improvement over last year, but was left in the wake of a powerful performance by Alabama, which scored 197.85 and won its second straight national championship.
The Crimson Tide, which won its sixth title, was in a dead tie with Florida with only two contestants remaining in the final event. Alabama's two seniors, Geralen Stack-Eaton and Ashley Priess, each responded with a 9.9 on the beam to nail down the victory.
Florida was second with 197.775 and UCLA was third with 197.750. Stanford was fourth with 197.5 and Arkansas sixth with 196.3.
"There's very little room for very small errors," Marsden said. "You just have to get on a roll and not make any errors."
The Utes weren't bad in any event, but they failed to have the breakout they needed to have a chance. They lost points for such things as non-perfect landings and going outside the boundries on the floor.
"You could pick out little things here and there, but there's no point in doing that," said senior Stephanie McAllister.
Utah opened on the beam in the first rotation and held its own. Kyndal Roberts had a 9.9, but the team's total of 49.350 gave them little traction.
Georgia Dabritz continued her outstanding meet with a 9.9 on the floor and followed that with a 9.9 on the vault. The Utes scored 49.325 on the floor and 49.4 on the vault. McAllister closed her career with a 9.9 on the bars, as Utah totaled 49.3.
"There's always pressure," said sophomore Corrie Lothrop. "You're not going to do everything perfect. Sometimes thing just happen."
Whatever happened wasn't enough to discredit a good season. The Utes reached the NCAAs for a record 37th straight year and advanced to the Super Six for the 13th straight season.
"I'm proud of this group," Marsden said. "They worked hard all year. They really had to raise their game. We had problems early with consistency and we were working hard for a better finish, but they have to feel good about themselves."
While Utah couldn't match the number of fans that nearby schools such as Florida or Alabama brought to the meet, there were several hundred loud fans in the stands, distinguished by their yellow and red shirts. Their presence was definitely noticed.
"It's so cool to be a part of a program that has fans that come from all the way across the country," McAllister said. "That's part of what makes this program special."
1. Alabama 197.850
2. Florida 197.775
3. UCLA 197.750
4. Stanford 197.500
5. Utah 197.375
6. Arkansas 196.300