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Utah gymnastics looking for stronger start on the road

By Melissa Yack

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Jan. 17 2014 12:10 a.m. MST

Utah's Georgia Dabritz performs on the floor as Utah, BYU, SUU and Boise State compete Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 in the Huntsman Center.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah gymnastics team moved up two spots in the national rankings and is now tied for fourth overall with reining champion Florida. The Red Rocks also rank second as a team on vault, while juniors Georgia Dabritz and Tory Wilson lead the nation on uneven bars after posting 9.95s in Utah’s quad-meet win last Saturday.

Though Wilson and Dabritz hit the high bars marks last weekend, Utah saw seniors Corrie Lothrop and Nansy Damianova fall. The event hasn’t been kind to Utah in its opening meets the past three seasons. In 2012, Utah had a fall and break, and then in 2013 started with three falls on bars. The difference in those two meets is that Utah was on the road at UCLA, meaning bars was the opening event for the Red Rocks rather than vault when Utah is the home team. Vault is a high-energy event to get the nerves out, whereas bars is more calm.

The Red Rocks will start on bars at Cal this Friday. Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden said despite the falls last weekend at home, he isn’t worried about bars since it developed into one of Utah’s best events as last season progressed, highlighted by Dabritz’s runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships.

With all but one of the rostered members back from last season, and only one newcomer, co-head coach Megan Marsden said the focus is more on the team finally carrying over the energy of home meets onto the road. The past two seasons, the energy on the road was something that baffled the coaching staff since the home performances and practices had been so strong. The road scores matter because the regional qualifying score incorporates three road meets into the average to determine the rankings.

“Our team is more experienced this season and has shown the coaches more confidence,” said Megan Marsden. “This team is determined to do well every meet.”

Despite the confidence going on the road, there is something to be said about being at home where the Red Rocks have averaged more than 11,000 fans a meet every season since 1992 and more recently around 14,000 fans.

“It really was great that we got to start at home this season,” said Wilson. “We were able to experience the Huntsman Center energy, and we need to take that on the road with us.

With the home win under their belt, the Red Rocks are also faced with the loss of Kassandra Lopez. The junior tore her Achilles before last weekend’s meet started and had surgery Monday. Lopez was expected to compete in three events this season.

“Kassandra is a big part of our team, but we have to keep going and stay positive,” said senior captain Hailee Hansen. “We have to work this week on getting ready for a road meet at a place this group hasn’t been to.”

Last season, Utah routed Cal at home 197.05-192.75 and beat the Bears at the Pac-12 championships. Friday’s meet also will mark the first of eight-straight meets for Utah with at least one Pac-12 opponent. The Pac-12 has five teams ranked in the Top 25, led by Utah at No. 4 and UCLA at No. 6.

“There are no throwaway meets in the Pac-12 because every team is getting better and better,” said Greg Marsden. “We have to be prepared and perform well to win meets.”

Utah's Dabritz is the reigning Pac-12 Specialist of the Week after the bars performance, as well as earning a 9.9 on vault and 9.875 on floor.

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