Utah gymnastics: 5th-ranked Red Rocks host No. 6 Georgia on senior night
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah gymnast Nansy Damianova called her coach, Greg Marsden, last week and said she couldn’t make the flight to Michigan with her team because she was battling the stomach flu. That would've been it for most people, but as Marsden pointed out, Damianova isn't like most people.
“Nansy asked me if she could fly in later if she was feeling better,” Marsden said.
Damianova arrived just in time the next day and recorded a 9.9 on bars and floor, and a 9.825 on vault.
“It is my senior year, and I wasn’t going to miss that meet. I started rehydrating myself and eating food my trainer recommended after I felt better so I could get some energy,” said Damianova.
It’s that team-first mentality that Marsden loves about his entire senior class. The group will be recognized Saturday night at 6:40 p.m. in the Huntsman Center before No. 5 Utah hosts No. 6 Georgia.
“This group came in and really changed the culture in the gym,” Marsden said. “It’s really a group that enjoys doing their sport, and they are willing to work hard and are positive every day.”
Along with Damianova, fellow seniors Mary Beth Lofgren, Hailee Hansen and Lia Del Priore will bid farewell to the home fans they’ve equally adored.
Though the Canadian and former Olympian Damianova needed a few years to acclimate to the U.S. collegiate scene, she’s been fantastic the past two seasons. She earned All-American honors last year on bars and floor and has hit career bests in those events this year. But Damianova is still pushing herself to get her final event up to the same standards.
“I haven’t stuck a vault landing this season, so that is my goal to help the team,” said Damianova.
Utah natives Lofgren and Hansen have shined for their childhood team. Lofgren was an All-American on beam her freshman season, and Hansen, who competes solely on bars, was only the third walk-on at Utah to earn All-American honors.
“Mary Beth was born to do this. She was only a few days old when she came to her first Utah gymnastics meet, and grew up in the Huntsman Center following us,” said Marsden. “She’s really living her dream and we can always count on her.
“Hailee is just a great story. She really wanted to be a part of this thing so she walked on. She didn’t really have a good hit rate coming in, but had a lot of potential especially on bars. We were able to give her a scholarship this year so that was exciting and she’s a great co-captain.”
Del Priore is the only one of the group to record a 10. She did it last year on the floor, and continues to thrive in the event this season.
“Lia is really a great team player,” said Marsden. “She’s willing to do whatever is asked of her. She loves football, has been in the MUSS and has run for student government. She’s just a great, well-rounded person who wants to teach math after she finishes school.”
While the seniors insist they are focused solely on the Georgia meet, they could make history later this month and lead Utah to its first Pac-12 team championship. They also have unfinished business with the goal of getting Utah back to the NCAA Super Six finals after breaking a 13-year streak last year.
NOTES: Corrie Lothrop, who came in with this group, has elected to take her medical redshirt from last year and return as a senior next season. ... The Pac-12 championship meet will be held March 22.
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