SALT LAKE CITY — It will be raining gymnasts Saturday, as the University of Utah hosts the NCAA Salt Lake Regional in the Huntsman Center. Utah fans were spoiled in the draw with home team Utah highlighting a field that includes individual qualifiers from in-state teams BYU, Southern Utah and Utah State. Fans will also get to see three conference all-around champions in Corrie Lothrop (Pac-12), Emily Wong (Big Ten) and Thomasina Wallace (WAC).
The meet begins at 6 p.m., and will include all six teams plus individual gymnasts in one session. Teams and individual competitors will rotate through four events and two byes with the top two teams and individual winners on non-advancing teams qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
Fifth-ranked Nebraska is the top seed in the Salt Lake Regional. As a team, the Big Ten champion ranks in the top 10 for all four individual events highlighted by a No. 2 bars ranking. Jessie DeZiel is third in the country in the all-around and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The Huskers produced a season-best score in the Huntsman Center in March to defeat Utah 197.600-197.450.
The eighth-ranked Red Rocks are the second seed in the regional. Last year, Utah had two gymnasts earn individual titles at the Norman Regional. Stephanie McAllister and Nansy Damianova tied for first on vault, and Damianova won the floor. McAllister is scheduled for the vault lineup and Damianova for floor as they look to repeat.
Lothrop leads the Red Rocks with 12 victories this season, followed by McAllister and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Georgia Dabritz with 11. Utah has only lost twice in the Huntsman Center this season, once to the Nebraska and the other to UCLA in the Pac-12 Championships. The Red Rocks have a winning record over every team in the regional, but have lost three straight to the Huskers.
Joining Nebraska is fellow Big Ten team Minnesota. The No. 17 Golden Gophers finished third at the Big Ten Championships and are coached by former Ute assistant Meg Stephenson.
Twenty-fourth ranked Iowa State's Celine Paulus won the Big 12 vault title with a 9.95. The senior hit a 39.5 in her regular season finale at Nebraska.
Arizona State, which is back in regionals after missing out last season, returns to the Huntsman Center after competing in the Pac-12 Championships two weeks ago. Utah has defeated the Gym Devils twice this season — once in Arizona and then at the championships. Senior Beate Jones earned second-team all-conference honors in the all-around.
For San Jose State, Wallace has come back from an injury-plagued career to rank seventh in the all-around nationally while being named WAC Gymnast of the Year. The Spartans earned the regular-season WAC title.
Gymnasts from Utah State and Southern Utah will join San Jose State in representing the WAC. For the Aggies, sophomore Paige Jones is making her second appearance at regionals. Jones, Rebecca Holliday and Sarah Landes will compete in the all-around with Landes rotating with Utah. Alyssa Click is representing SUU on beam. Click finished second in the event at the WAC Championships, and was the bars champion.
BYU has three gymnasts competing. Raquel Willman will compete in all-around, while Natalie Pickard competes on vault and bars, and Krysten Koval on floor. Linnaea Hance from Air Force rounds out the all-around individual competitors.
"This is going to be a good regional," said Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden. "It should be fun for the fans to cheer for so many gymnasts from the throughout the state."
Nebraska (5), Utah (8), Minnesota (17), Iowa State (24), Arizona State, San Jose
Saturday, 6 p.m.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company