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Utah Red Rocks reflect on coming up short at NCAA gymnastics meet for a 2nd-straight year

By Melissa Yack

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, April 27 2014 11:05 p.m. MDT

Courtesy of the University of Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY — Sugarcoating isn’t going to happen, plain and simple. Rather, Utah’s gymnastics team has been honest about the disappointment that accompanied not advancing to the NCAA super six finals for a second-straight year.

“We wanted to give ourselves a chance to be the national champions and were coming off such a high after winning the Pac-12 championship and regionals,” said Corrie Lothrop. “It just wasn’t our night at nationals, which was unfortunate since the rest of the year was amazing. It hurts we didn’t make it.”

Despite the ending, Lothrop and her teammates have committed to let the bitter aftertaste fester for a bit — but not overshadow a season full of highlights.

“When you really look at the changes from the end of last summer all the way to nationals this year, you have to think this season was awesome,” Lothrop noted.

The Red Rocks earned Utah’s first Pac-12 team championship, and did so in dominant fashion as they won or tied for four of the five individual championships. Tory Wilson was named Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year, while Georgia Dabritz garnered Specialist of the Year honors and Greg and Megan Marsden were named Coaches of the Year. Wilson won the league all-around title, and Dabrtiz was victorious in her three events at the championship — bars, vault and floor. Juniors Wilson and Dabritz also led Utah in event wins.

“I’m pretty proud about how this season went,” said Wilson. “Not every meet was perfect, but we definitely made a point that we were a force to be reckoned with.”

Utah went undefeated at home, and earned another attendance title. The team also saw Dabritz (bars and floor) and Wilson and Kailah Delaney (vault) become mainstays atop the national rankings.

“It was a thrilling, very rewarding season until the end,” said Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden. “That was heartbreaking and disappointing because they had really committed to this year and had worked hard, proved so much and accomplished so much. To not even make it into the super six again was painful.”

The season’s end marked the conclusion of four gymnasts’ careers in Nansy Damianova, Lia Del Priore, Hailee Hansen and Mary Beth Lofgren.

Damianova competed on vault and bars for Utah, but it was floor where she shined as a Pac-12 and regional champion and NCAA finalist. Lofgren was a stalwart on the beam, and also competed on vault and floor. Del Priore competed in floor, while Hansen was in the bars’ lineup, meaning Utah will have to replace eight routines next season.

“This senior group is very talented, but what we’re really going to miss about them is their leadership,” said Marsden. “We’ve said over and over they changed the mindset of our team.”

That senior group was part of several wins at Utah, including Marsden and the program’s 1,000th victory this season.

Though Utah is losing four seniors, it will have leadership in place next year with Lothrop, who has been Utah’s co-captain the past two seasons. Lothrop, the Pac-12 all-around champion, is expected to return to the all-around lineup next year after an Achilles tear in 2013 limited her to beam and bars this season. Kassandra Lopez will be back next season after missing this year with a torn Achilles.

The future

Utah welcomes four junior Olympic qualifiers next season in Samantha Partyka (Katy, Texas), Maddy Stover (Fullerton, Calif.), Kari Lee (Peoria, Ariz.) and Tiffani Lewis (Las Vegas). Marsden admitted on paper the four compose one of Utah’s better recruiting classes, but also admitted the transition to college is unpredictable.

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