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Ute gymnastics: Nansy Damianova has career night in NCAA semifinals

Published: Friday, April 19 2013 11:47 p.m. MDT

Utah fans cheer in the NCAA women's gymnastics championship at UCLA in Los Angeles Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP) Utah fans cheer in the NCAA women's gymnastics championship at UCLA in Los Angeles Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP)

LOS ANGELES — Nansy Damianova felt a little nervous before the floor because her timing wasn’t what she wanted it to be.

That didn’t seem to matter as she went out and tied her career high in the event with a 9.925, earning her a spot in Sunday’s individual competition.

“I’m so excited,” she said smiling. “It’s my first time doing those events. So I’m just really excited and happy.”

She scored a 9.925 on bars, as well, finishing second to Georgia Dabritz, who earned a 9.950, which tied with Oklahoma’s Erica Brewer for the top score of the night.

Tory Wilson will join Damianova in the individual competition as a vault competitor, as one of nine gymnasts who scored a 9.90.

Nansy Damionova of Utah competes on the unevel parallel bars in the NCAA women's gymnastics championship at UCLA in Los Angeles Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP) Nansy Damionova of Utah competes on the unevel parallel bars in the NCAA women's gymnastics championship at UCLA in Los Angeles Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP)

Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden was happy for the gymnasts who earned that honor.

"That's great," he said. "There was definitely some good stuff tonight."

FIXING UTAH'S BEAM WOES

Despite this season's struggles on balance beam, both coaches and athletes are confident they're close to curing what ailes them.

"I think it’s just a matter of them focusing on that in the off-season, especially their mental approach," said Marsden. "That’s the kind of thing that if you get off to a rocky start on beam, sometimes it’s hard to get turned around. It’s like a batter in a slump, the more you think about it, the harder you work at it, the worse it can get kind of thing."

Lia Del Priore of Utah competes in the floor exercise in the NCAA women's gymnastics championship at UCLA in Los Angeles Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP) Lia Del Priore of Utah competes in the floor exercise in the NCAA women's gymnastics championship at UCLA in Los Angeles Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP)

A better off-season will translate into success next season.

"We’ve really got to come into the season in a much better place," he said. "And just feel better about ourselves on that event, throughout the season."

Dabritz agrees.

"It just takes a lot of time," she said. "You fall…and people think it’s a physical thing, but most of the time it’s mental and that’s the hardest part for us to fix. All summer and all preseason to fix that."

LIFE AFTER OLYMPIC DISAPPOINTMENT

Less than a year ago, Bridgett Sloan was watching her life-long dream disappear. Her goal of getting to the Olympic games ended with a sprained elbow and a broken heart.

Utah gymnasts huddle after the NCAA women's gymnastics championship at UCLA in Los Angeles Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP) Utah gymnasts huddle after the NCAA women's gymnastics championship at UCLA in Los Angeles Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP)

“I was in tears at the Olympic trials,” said the Florida freshman, after earning the top all-around score in the first semifinal with a 39.60. “But the last few months have been incredible. Just to look back on what happened at trials, in a way, it was kind of a blessing in disguise.” She said she’s never felt healthier or more mentally tough.

Sloan called college gymnastics “the light at the end of the tunnel for me. …I love gymnastics again. It’s becoming a fun job for me. Being a student athlete is very hard, but I’m so, so happy that I kept the NCAA eligibility and was able to come to a great school and compete. It’s been an incredible ride.”

RETURN TO SUPER SIX FOR LSU

Nansy Damianova performs on the floor as Utah faces Florida in NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City, Saturday, March 16, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Nansy Damianova performs on the floor as Utah faces Florida in NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City, Saturday, March 16, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

The competition is tighter than ever, but that didn’t stop the Tigers from advancing for the first time since 2009.

“There is so much parity in the country that it really truly is a feat to be able to advance,” said LSU head coach D-D Breaux. “We are very happy, and I’m very proud of this team. …. The first thing we wanted to do was win the game of perception and start strong, and we did that. We continued to get better as a team. We created team chemistry. We are blessed to have a staff that likes each other and that coaches well together. Our team has made so much progress. We are excited to be back.”

SEC REIGNS SUPREME

All three of the first semifinal qualifiers were from the SEC, a point every coach made sure to point out.

“This is an unbelievable field,” said Georgia head coach Danna Durante. “We have seen LSU now four times, and we’re going to do it again tomorrow. This speaks to the level of competition in the SEC. The seniors in particular have worked so hard to get to the Super Six. We are looking forward to represent the University of Georgia tomorrow.”

Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden hugs Mary Beth Lofgren at the NCAA women's gymnastics championship at UCLA in Los Angeles Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP) Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden hugs Mary Beth Lofgren at the NCAA women's gymnastics championship at UCLA in Los Angeles Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP)

Florida head coach Rhonda Faehn said the tough competition prepared those teams for the pressures of a national championship meet.

“I really feel there is no doubt that the competition that we see, week in and week out throughout our season, has helped prepare all of these athletes and everyone on the team for this particular situation this season,” Faehn said. “This is a big advantage for all of our teams here. So, it’s wonderful for all of us. I’m excited for everyone to be in there. I always look back at 2009, when we had five of six teams in the Super Six. That was really awesome. I do think that the season competition week in and week out really prepares you mentally but also physically for the rigors of this championship.”

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