Utah gymnasts looking for a victory on the beam

By Melissa Yack

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 29 2014 9:15 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s gymnastics team hopes to keep things rolling this weekend, but it needs to conquer a roadblock along the way — the beam. The event is the only blemish in an otherwise strong start for Utah. As a team, it ranks No. 1 on vault, No. 2 on floor and No. 5 on bars. But beam comes in at No. 14, in part because Utah had to count a fall for a second-straight meet in last Saturday’s win over UCLA.

It’s a bit ironic because Utah’s best gymnast this season, Georgia Dabritz, is facing the same scenario as her team. She’s the only gymnast to rank in the top 5 nationally for three events, sitting at No. 1 on bars, No. 2 on vault (tied with her teammate Kailah Delaney) and No. 5 on floor (tied with UCLA's Sydney Sawa). While Dabritz hasn’t cracked the beam lineup this year, something she’s been in and out of during her career at Utah, the junior is not shying away from the event that's keeping her out of the best all-around gymnast discussions.

“We are going to really watch training on beam this week, and may do some different things with the lineup,” said Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden, who oversees beam. “The falls are hurting us, but also hurting us is not being as aggressive as we should be because it costs us in the scoring.”

If Utah hits on beam, it may boost an already impressive No. 4 national ranking.

Another roadblock Utah is working to overcome is becoming a good road team. After dropping its first road meet the past two seasons, Utah reeled in a victory over Cal this year. It will look to do the same Saturday when it faces No. 19 Arizona State in Tempe.

“We are becoming a road team this year, not just a home team,” said Dabritz.

"This team is capable of absolutely anything. We’ve shown it on three events, we just need to get the last one in there.”

The Red Rocks appear to be on a mission to show that missing last year’s Super Six NCAA Finals was a one-year deal and that they’re back as an all-around contender.

“We trained really hard in the offseason and the gymnasts were focused on coming in with their routines ready to go,” said Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden. “I’m not surprised where we are in terms of hitting our routines this early in the season on the three events. But I am surprised with beam, because we are showing better in practice.”

The difficult elements Utah is performing in its routines this early in the season is what has helped the Red Rocks produce high scores. But the team is still tweaking lineups and routines to get those extra tenths. Nansy Damianova changed her bars routine and hit for a career-best 9.925 last Saturday, while Corrie Lothrop also made a change the week before. Lothrop also hit a career-best 9.925 last Saturday on bars.

“My set already had a high starting value so the change doesn’t affect it too much,” said Damianova. “The change did help me gain some more confidence.”

Arizona State and Utah square off on Saturday at 1 p.m. It is the final dual meet between the Marsdens and John Spini. Spini is retiring after 34 years at the helm of ASU. Though Greg Marsden is downplaying the possibility of winning his 1,000th victory Saturday, it will likely be even more special to earn against a fellow coach he’s long respected and considered a friend.

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