TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Utah gymnasts kept the longest streak in collegiate gymnastics alive by qualifying for a record 38th-straight national championship. It didn't come easy though. Entering the final rotation of the night, the Utes were tied with Denver for the second and final qualifying position into the NCAA Championships.
That's when they brought on the heat. The Utes burned red hot on the vault, posting the best score by any team on the event, a 49.40. Across the floor, Denver went the other direction on the beam, scoring a 48.275 to drop all the way to fourth.
Two-time defending NCAA champion Alabama won the Tuscaloosa Regional with a 197.400, followed by Utah (196.400), Iowa State (195.400), Denver (195.275), Brigham Young (194.475) and Kent State (193.500). Alabama and Utah are now headed to the 32nd NCAA Gymnastics Championship in Los Angeles, which begins in two weeks (April 19-21).
"This is the hardest meet of the year because there is so much pressure," Marsden said. "Oregon State and Nebraska were both upset, which shows you what can happen at regionals. Even though we didn't have our best meet, we didn't count a fall, we kept battling, and when we really needed to come through, we did."
Marsden even had nice things to say about Utah's worst event of the night — the balance beam — where a 48.650 allowed Denver to pull ahead of the Utes. It was the beam that cost the Utes a shot at the Pac-12 Championships two weeks ago, but Marsden was fairly pleased with an even lower score tonight.
"We really didn't have a bad beam set tonight," he insisted, despite the score. "It was the lowest scoring event of the night overall and we felt pretty good about our routines. That's why you can't base your performance entirely on scores. It wasn't a perfect meet, but we stayed pretty relaxed and people didn't panic like they did at the Pac-12."
Heading into the final event tied with Denver at 147.000, Marsden said he was confident his team would advance because of its draw. "I felt very good because we were headed to our best event and Denver was going to the beam."
He was spot on. Tory Wilson won her 11th (of 12) vault title of the year, tying with teammate Georgia Dabritz with a score of 9.925. Mary Beth Lofgren added a 9.875 and Becky Tutka started the set with a 9.85 in her first career vault.
Prior to their explosive vault set, the Utes moved into a tie with Denver by scoring a 49.175 on the floor exercise and were paced by Nansy Damianova's meet-tying and career-tying 9.925.
The Utes started the meet on a bye before beginning their actual competition on the bars. All six Utes hit their routines, scoring a 49.175 and led by Dabritz's 9.90 and a 9.85 from Kassandra Lopez. After one rotation, Utah was tied with Denver for second place (the Pioneers scored a 49.175 on the floor). Alabama was first with a 49.35 on vault.
Scores were hard to come by on the balance beam, where the top marks came from Lopez (9.775) and Lofgren (9.825). Dabritz fell for her fifth time of the season on the beam, forcing the Utes to count a 9.65 from Breanna Hughes (who, after dismounting from the beam, spent the rest of the meet in the locker room with an allergic reaction that required medical care).
After two complete rotations, Utah (97.825) had dropped to third behind Alabama (98.725) and Denver (98.050). Iowa State closed the gap on the Utes with a 97.625 two-event score. Kent State (96.70) and BYU (96.450) were fifth and sixth.
Utah started slowly out of its bye, building enough steam as the event went on to move into a tie with Denver for second, each with a 147.00. Top performers were Wilson (9.875) and Damianova (9.925).
The Utes saved their best for last, cranking out a 49.40 vault set, the best of the night by any team. Dabritz and Wilson scored back-to-back 9.925s to tie for first. Wilson has now won or tied for first on vault in every meet other than the Pac-12 Championships, where she tied for second with Dabritz.
Wilson, who placed third in the all-around with a 39.350, was honored as the North Central Region Gymnast of the Year. Utah senior associate athletics director Liz Abel was named North Central Region Administrator of the Year.
Cougars finish 5th at regional meet
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Putting a wrap on a successful season, the BYU women's gymnastics team finished with a 194.450 at the NCAA regional meet on Saturday night at the Coleman Coliseum.
BYU finished in fifth place at the meet.
Makenzie Johnson and Raquel Willman finished the all-around competition tied for sixth with a score of 38.950 each, and Megan Bain scored a 38.400 for 13th place.
The Cougars finished the 2013 season with another NCAA regional berth, their 22nd in 25 years. The team also scored over 195 seven times, the most since the 2005 season.
Utah State also had three gymnasts compete in regionals hosted by Ohio State. Junior Paige Jones and sophomore Sarah Landes competed in the all-around while freshman Stefanie Daley competed on the balance beam. Landes finished in seventh place in the all-around with a score of 39.125, and Jones placed 11th with a 38.950. Daley tied for 37th on beam with a 9.550.
Southern Utah also wrapped up its season with a fifth-place 194.850 at the NCAA Regionals in Norman, Okla. Sophomore Jamie Armijo recorded the T-Birds' top finish, third place on the uneven bars, narrowly missing a berth at the NCAA Championships by less than half a tenth.