I think this is a pretty special group in terms of how they approach their day-to-day life as a high-level athlete, and also how they interact with each other. —Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden
SALT LAKE CITY — Whether it’s a bar routine or a biology exam, the members of Utah's gymnastics team are willing to do whatever’s necessary to succeed — including taking an honest look at their own flaws.
“I think they’re a special group,” said Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden. “They’re a special group in their approach to all aspects of their lives. They’re extremely disciplined in the classroom and do well in school; they’re such a hard-working group here in the gym. They condition with a smile on their face, not an easy thing to do in any sport.”
A willingness to work may be a key ingredient to the Red Rocks' success this season — including earning their school's first Pac-12 championship and winning their regional meet — but it is not the only reason they are legitimate contenders for a national title in their 39th-consecutive appearance at the NCAA national meet.
“Because they’re at such a high level, the easy stuff has been addressed,” Marsden said. “The hard stuff that’s what’s left to be dealt with. I give this team credit for paying attention to that daily in the gym this year.”
The group benefits from veteran experience as the lineup includes four seniors and some very experienced juniors.
“They’ve had a career with us,” she said. “They’ve been through this, and I really feel like they have learned. They’ve taken notes on the game they’re in and each year, they’ve improved tremendously with some of their weaknesses. This year the focus was very much a year for each athlete to train daily and focus on their weaknesses.”
The gymnasts study film of their routines and look for ways to address even the most seemingly insignificant issues — from pointed toes to straight legs.
And as the Utah coaches know, it’s not every athlete who can both admit to flaws and commit to eliminate them.
“I do think that’s part of why we’re a better team,” she said. “We’re scoring higher scores because many people on the team have looked at some of the little details in their routine, things that are causing them deductions, and they’ve addressed them. And now we’re getting 9.9s and 9.25s and 9.95s.” The Utes have even enjoyed a perfect 10 from Georgia Dabritz on bars.
The Utes' most obvious collective flaw may have been struggling in road meets. But they addressed that with the Pac-12 championship and regional victories.
“I think this is a pretty special group in terms of how they approach their day-to-day life as a high-level athlete, and also how they interact with each other,” Marsden said.
As the Red Rocks heads to Alabama to compete in Friday’s evening session of the NCAA national meet, they couldn’t be in a better position. Their wins have given them confidence and both coaches and gymnasts still see room to improve.
“I think (the road wins) are just a confidence boost for us,” said Dabritz, who won three individual titles at the Pac-12 meet. “After last year, we were a little bit lacking in confidence. I think that’s kind of what led to our downfall. But this year, it’s been a complete turnaround and we have complete confidence in ourselves and our teammates. That will definitely help.”
NCAA gymnastics championships
Team semifinals/all-around finals (live video stream)
Noon, MDT — Oklahoma, Illinois, Georgia, Michigan, LSU, Stanford
6 p.m., MDT — Utah, UCLA, Florida, Penn State, Alabama, Nebraska
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5 p.m., MDT — Super six team finals (ESPN3)
1 p.m., MDT — individual event finals (ESPN3)
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