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Utah Utes gymnastics: Red Rocks edge Stanford in Pac-12 thriller

Published: Saturday, Feb. 23 2013 11:10 p.m. MST

Junior Lia Del Priore waves to a cheering crowd in the Huntsman Center after earning most valuable performer Saturday night.  Del Priore scored a perfect ten on her routine on floor.  (Chad Zavala Daily Utah Chronicle) Junior Lia Del Priore waves to a cheering crowd in the Huntsman Center after earning most valuable performer Saturday night. Del Priore scored a perfect ten on her routine on floor. (Chad Zavala Daily Utah Chronicle)

SALT LAKE CITY — Saturday’s gymnastics meet left fans on the edge of their Huntsman Center seats with No. 7 Utah and No. 10 Stanford battling down to the last few routines.

But the Utah faithful knew their Red Rocks had the victory in hand and could breathe a sigh of relief once Becky Tutka concluded the competition on floor. The end result was a 197.300-197.075 win for Utah over its Pac-12 foe.

Despite leading the entire meet, the victory was anything but easy for the Rock Rocks. They kicked things off with a bang as freshman Taylor Allex led off vault with a career-best 9.85. The rest of the team followed suit and boosted Utah to a season-high 49.5 on the event.

In its second rotation, Utah bounced back on bars after struggling on the road last week, posting a 49.25. It was the team's second-highest total on the event this season, but is still not where the Red Rocks want to be.

Junior Lia Del Priore performs on floor during the Utes' victory over Stanford Saturday night in the Huntsman center. Del Priore scored a perfect ten on her routine. (Chad Zavala Daily Utah Chronicle) Junior Lia Del Priore performs on floor during the Utes' victory over Stanford Saturday night in the Huntsman center. Del Priore scored a perfect ten on her routine. (Chad Zavala Daily Utah Chronicle)

Utah’s biggest struggle came on beam — yet again — where it had to count a 9.675 from Georgia Dabritz after she had a balance check and Kassandra Lopez touched the beam in her routine to get a 9.35.

Meanwhile, the Cardinal was on Utah’s heels at 147.775-147.6 heading into the final rotation, where both teams rank fourth in the country in their respective events.

On beam, Stanford knocked out a 49.475 in a beautiful beam set, but it wasn’t enough to dethrone the home team. Utah hit all the right cylinders on floor — led by Lia Del Priore’s 10 and Nansy Damianova’s career-best tying 9.925 — to seal the win before a lively crowd of 13,357, and a live TV audience on the Pac-12 Networks.

“Stanford did a nice job and we did a nice job,” said Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden. “I give Stanford a lot of credit to be on the road in this arena with this crowd on that event (beam) and to almost knock it out of the park was impressive.“

Marsden said it was a lot of fun to have the crowd’s energy in the first-ever gymnastics "blackout," but noted his team still has room for improvement.

“What’s obvious for everyone is the leg events are not an issue for us,” said Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden speaking about vault and floor. “We can hang with anybody on those two events. Bars and beam have got to continue to get better for us.”

Marsden noted the difference between Utah's and Stanford’s beam sets was obvious in terms of execution, and admitted a frustration after two spectacular training days during this past week’s practice on the beam. The coach also said it was the one event the team didn’t approach aggressively and admitted his team still doesn’t look confident on it.

But Marsden was happy about the bars’ turnaround, as was the team.

“We definitely did a lot better than last week,” said Damianova. “We were a little cleaner and had more handstands tonight. We trained harder this week on details and most of that work from this past week showed today.”

Stanford’s Ashley Morgan won the all-around at 39.45, with Red Rock Tory Wilson finishing second at 39.425. Dabritz finished third at 39.35 — even with the low beam score.

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