Utah and BYU both started out their women's gymnastics seasons with first-meet results that pleased - no, downright surprised - their coaches.
No. 1-ranked Utah's Greg Marsden wasn't sure his team could beat the 192.35 that No. 2-ranked Georgia opened with last week, but the Utes scored 193.35 points last Monday. "It was a great place to start," says Marsden.BYU opened with 187.4 at Southern Utah Jan. 10, its best opener ever even without injured Korie Jackman, but more important to coach Brad Cattermole was the Cougs' drive and blend of old and new. "I think I underestimated them," says Cattermole. "For the first time, I have senior leadership and a freshman sparkplug."
Tonight at 7 in Utah's Huntsman Center, the two teams will meet. And in gymnastics, they can both win.
"We're looking to do well against ourselves. Whether we beat U. of U. is really not the question," says Cattermole.
After all, Utah is defending national champion and started out this season six points ahead of where BYU started.
"I told the girls," says Marsden, "if we take them for granted, they could wind up with a win. I talked to them directly about that." But nobody really expects that.
"We can look good, get a good score and actually win a victory and still lose the meet," Cattermole says.
The point for BYU is a good score for postseason seeding. Utah, almost for sure, will be in the 190s, and that can boost the visitors' score.
For that reason, BYU probably won't upgrade its routines much yet, though with 11 days between meets, it has polished, added a few things and will have Jackman back in three events. Jackman should join all-arounders Marianne Squires and Christy McAdams with BYU's best individual scores. McAdams is BYU's fireball freshman who signed early while Marsden was still hoping to recruit her.
Cattermole says he's been trying to come up with the proper description for his team. His solution: "This team has more heart than any team in the past," he says. "They believe they can go to nationals (that would be a first) and compete with anybody."
Much of the credit goes to Jackman, who had a sophomore slump and opened this season with ankle problems. "She has been so determined; that kid has come on like a house afire," Cattermole says. "If desire has anything to do with it, she will be a force in this meet."
Utah has more forces than spots in events, so Marsden will use several in exhibition tonight so they can challenge current starters.
Some will upgrade a little. Sophomore Kristen Kenoyer, who scored 39.0 last week to win the all-around by .05 over Missy Marlowe, will use a new Geinger release on bars. It's preparation for an intended upgrade to two different releases on bars. That's done internationally, "but it's very uncommon in college," Marsden says.
Utah's main interest will be improving execution and getting junior Shelly Schaerrer back on track after problems on the beam last week. Schaerrer is the school all-around record-holder (39.225) and had scores of 9.65 (vault), 9.7 (bars) and 9.85 (floor) last week.
Utah will use the meet to tune for its confrontation at Georgia Friday.