SALT LAKE CITY — The event that has plagued Utah all season became its shining star Saturday night as No. 5 Utah defeated No. 6 Georgia 198.025-197.6. The overall score marked the first time Utah has hit in the 198-range this season, and its 49.5 on beam smashed its previous season high of 49.275.
“We’ve been waiting for that beam score,” said Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden. “We’ve been hovering around that 49, and I said we needed to be up around 49.3. That was really the difference tonight.”
The Red Rocks saw career-bests from Tory Wilson, who fell last week on beam, Baely Rowe and Kailah Delaney in the event. Rowe’s 9.85 didn’t even factor into the beam average because her teammates built on the leadoff mark as the event progressed. Breanna Hughes tied her career-high of 9.875. Hughes has been in and out of the beam lineup this season, and had struggled of late.
Marsden admitted he has three gymnasts battling for that final spot in the beam lineup, and it’s likely going to be a battle in practice each week to see who gets the nod for the meet.
“There was no question she (Hughes) earned that opportunity again,” said Marsden.
Utah has consistently hit high scores in its other three events but has been hampered by its beam scores. The team knows it needs the beam score to be consistently higher if it's going to make a run in the postseason.
“Our beam today was what we do everyday in practice. We finally showed it on competition floor,” said Wilson.
Saturday’s meet was really not a surprise in many ways as both gymnastics powerhouses put on a show for the fans. It was neck and neck throughout the meet, with Georgia tying things up in the final rotation. But Utah added a 9.925 from Becky Tutka and a 9.95 by Georgia Dabritz on floor to outpace the Gym Dogs’ beam scores.
And although the two scores sealed the victory, Utah saved its best for last as senior Nansy Damianova scripted a perfect ending to her career in the Huntsman Center when she recorded her first 10.
“I’ve been waiting for that 10 for so long,” said Damianova. “It was emotional and fun to finally get it.“
The score gave Damianova the win on floor. Utah’s Delaney, Wilson and Dabritz tied with Georgia’s Brandi Jay at 9.95 for the vault victory, and Wilson and Delaney shared the beam win with Georgia’s Lindsey Cheek at 9.925. On bars, Dabritz hit a 9.925 for the win over a Georgia team that leads the country in the event and boasts three of the nation’s best bars workers.
The victory marked the end of the regular season as Utah travels to the Pac-12 championships next week.
The 15,224 fans in attendance marked the sixth-largest Utah gymnastics crowd and helped Utah break its NCAA season attendance record with a new average of 14,376.
“It’s just unbelievable the support we get here,” said Marsden. “It’s such an important part of our program. For many of the girls who come here, a big part of why they come is the crowd.”
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