Best of the Pac-12: Utah, UCLA gymnastics teams meet Saturday at the Huntsman Center

By Melissa Yack

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Jan. 24 2014 5:48 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s a rivalry that stewed over the years before stepping up to a new level when Utah joined UCLA in the Pac-12. Now with Utah ranked fourth and UCLA ranked eighth, two of the country’s most storied gymnastics programs meet Saturday in the Huntsman Center.

Despite Utah owning a 22-2 advantage over UCLA at home, the Bruins have gotten the best of the Red Rocks of late. UCLA owns an eight-meet win streak, including a still-stinging loss for Utah by five-hundredths of a point in the inaugural Pac-12 championship in 2012. In fact, the only gymnasts on Utah’s roster that have been a part of a victory over UCLA are seniors.

“We’re going into this meet trying to protect our territory,” said senior Corrie Lothrop. “We haven’t beaten them since my freshman year. This weekend we are going in with confidence and know we have our routines ready.”

Juniors Georgia Dabritz and Tory Wilson lead the Red Rocks. Dabritz is ranked second in the country on uneven bars and has won Pac-12 Specialist of the Week the past two weeks. Wilson is Utah’s only all-arounder, and has performed well by winning the title in both of Utah’s wins this season. As a team, Utah leads the nation in vault.

UCLA’s Olivia Courtney leads the country individually on vault, while Samantha Peszek and Danusia Francis rank one-two on the beam. Fans should note Francis’ dismount, which is the first of its kind off the side of the beam. The former Olympian Peszek was the 2011 NCAA beam champion, but missed last year due to a torn Achilles — the same injury that kept Utah's Lothrop out most of last season.

Fans will also be treated to the best floor routines in the country, with the Bruins ranked first and Utah second.

“UCLA is a great team and it’s fun for us to compete against them,” said Dabritz. “We are competing really well right now and are earning high scores.”

Dabritz admits that the gymnasts aren’t always concerned about scores, but there’s a fun rivalry within the team to see who might record the first 10 this season. Wilson came close at Cal last weekend when one judge gave her the mark, but the other gave a 9.95 on her vault.

Saturday's meet marks the first on the road for the Bruins. In the preseason Pac-12 poll, UCLA was picked first with Utah a close second. Utah coach Greg Marsden is at 998 wins heading into Saturday’s meet.

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