SALT LAKE CITY — Utah gymnastics co-head coach Greg Marsden said he would have been surprised if any of his gymnasts or coaches were satisfied with their fifth-place finish at nationals. Rather the coach stressed it was a tough finish to swallow after a good season.
"We really thought we could improve on our fifth-place finish from last year. It stung a little bit to feel like the team was so much better and our performance was so much better, and we still placed fifth," said Marsden.
What Marsden did take consolation in is how tight the Super Six was for the top five teams with repeat champion Alabama coming in at 197.85 to Utah's fifth-place score of 197.375. Heading into nationals, Alabama coach Sarah Patterson said it was the toughest field she had ever seen.
Marsden's other bright spot was how his team finished out the season, not missing a routine in the NCAA Regionals and two rounds of NCAA Championships. This effort was something that had been hit and miss throughout the season for the young Utah team that included 11 underclassmen.
Of those underclassmen, freshmen Kailah Delaney, Georgia Dabritz and Tori Wilson earned All-America honors. Delaney and Dabritz were named first-team after advancing to the vault individual finals, while Wilson was second-team in the same event.
"It's very important for them to have that experience and get a little taste of success for what it feels like to be out there," said Marsden.
"I think all of the freshmen did a great job this year. They dealt with some typical freshman things, not the least of which is the grinding of showing up every Friday night. We did have some injuries that kept them out of spots we wanted to use them, and are going to use them more next year considering we lost nine routines from our seniors. Those nine routines are going to be big shoes to fill."
Of the seniors, Stephanie McAllister earned first-team All-America honors for all-around, as did sophomore Corrie Lothrop. McAllister and Lothrop were Utah's leaders all season, picking up additional second-team honors at nationals and being named Utah's MVPs at the team's year-end banquet.
Along with McAllister, seniors Cortni Beers and Kyndal Robarts wrapped up their careers with good showings at nationals that helped Utah continue its streak of being the only team to advance to every Super Six since 2000.
Though the streak is important, Marsden is looking toward adding a first to the team's resume next season. The Pac-12 championship eluded the Red Rocks this year with UCLA defeating Utah at the championships. The Red Rocks likely have Utah's best chance again at earning the school's first Pac-12 team title. They did earn the school's first individual league titles with Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Dabritz winning bars and and Lothrop earning the all-around title. The two should be Utah's leaders in 2013.
"This really was a special team," said Marsden. "You always wanted to be at practice and be with the team. It was hard to see it end, but we're excited for next year as well knowing who we have coming back."
As for what's next, Marsden admits it's no rest for the weary.
"The real work takes place when you set the stage for the next year — not when there are 14,000 fans in the stands, or media in the gym — it's when you are working in the offseason."
The coach and his staff will be busy recruiting this summer before they start their bridging program for the incoming freshmen. Marsden promises to keep his 6,000 plus Facebook followers updated throughout.