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Disappointment didn't stop Utah gymnasts from aggressive choices in NCAA's individual championships

Published: Sunday, April 20 2014 5:15 p.m. MDT

Courtesy of the University of Utah

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Even the bitter taste of Friday’s failure couldn’t convince Georgia Dabritz to play it safe in Sunday’s individual championships.

Instead of competing with a single full like most of the gymnasts did, the Utah junior opted to compete with a Yurchenko 1 1/2 twist in hopes of distinguishing herself from the pack.

“Fulls are what most of the other girls are doing, and they’re a little bit easier to do because you can see the ground,” she said. “But the 1 1/2 is a little bit more difficult and the judges are a little bit more willing to give it a higher score. So I thought I’d kind of set myself apart from the others.”

Despite finishing tied for ninth place with a 9.8667, Dabritz said she didn’t regret going for the win.

“It was great just to be out there again, and this is obviously my last shot for the season,” she said.

She said the heartbreak of her team's failure Friday to advance to Saturday’s super six championship was still fresh, and preparing to compete as an individual was both a relief and a challenge.

“It’s still a little bit disappointing that we weren’t in the competition last night, but we did have this to look forward to, and I have been looking forward to it,” she said.

Two of her teammates joined her in Sunday’s individual championships, which attracted the smallest crowd of the NCAA’s three-day gymnastics championships at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center in Birmingham, Ala.

Junior Becky Tutka and senior Nansy Damianova both competed on floor. And like Dabritz, they went for the win and ended up making small mistakes that cost them. Tutka finished in ninth place with a 9.85, while Damianova was 10th with a 9.7375.

Tutka said she was excited about competing and was surprised when she started to get nervous as she waited for her turn to perform.

“I was excited, and then, I was surprised how much the nerves hit me when I was sitting in the corral,” she said. “I think I handled them fine. I wasn’t perfect, but I can’t ask to be perfect. Some of these girls look pretty perfect.”

She said she got a bit emotional just before she took the floor because she thought of her parents, and especially her mom, who suffers from spinocerebellar degeneration, a condition that affects the nervous system. It’s robbed her mom of mobility and she often has to use a wheelchair. She only attended one other Utah meet this season — the one at Michigan.

Having her mom and dad in the stands was a thrill for the feisty junior.

“It was kind of emotional,” she said afterward. “(Co-head coach) Megan (Marsden) said, 'Do it for our fans, do it for our team,' and I kind of choked up because I thought about my parents being here, and I was so excited they were here. I got to spend time with them over the last couple of days, and that was nice. My mom had a lot of fun. I think she had more fun than I did.”

She said she was proud to compete for the U. one more time this season, even if it didn’t go the way she hoped.

“It’s not hard to do it,” she said, referring to the disappointment of Friday’s fourth-place finish, “because I wanted to do it for everybody who put all the work in this year ... and I could show how hard we worked.”

Like Tutka and Dabritz, Damianova was proud to compete for the Utes one more time. Only her final routine ended her collegiate career.

“I did think about it a little,” she said about Friday’s meet. “But more in a positive way. Just go out and enjoy it because it’s your last one.”

She said the highlights of this season were earning a 10 on floor during senior night and winning the school’s first Pac-12 championship.

“It was nice to prove, nice to put what we’ve done in training into competition,” she said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden was proud of his athletes for their effort — and for the risks they took. He thought the mistakes came from trying too hard, not from not trying hard enough.

Twitter: adonsports EMAIL: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

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