It had to happen sooner or later. Utah's gymnastics team has won just about every challenge, and now it's starting to play peek-a-boo with perfection itself, having broken the two biggest NCAA records Saturday night in a 195.6-190.6 victory over Utah State in the Huntsman Center.
It was the highest team score anyone's ever recorded in collegiate women's gymnastics, breaking UCLA's 2-year-old mark of 195.2. For Utah State, it was the second-best score in school history and best on the road.When the U.'s Missy Marlowe alighted flawlessly from the balance beam late in the meet, many thoughts were on a perfect "10.0."
She got 9.9 for her effort.
Many were disappointed. Not Marlowe.
Why be greedy? She had three 9.9s for the night. No Ute had ever gotten more than one 9.9 in a meet.
And Marlowe was on her way to the night's other NCAA record, 39.5 in the all-around. So far, the record is unverified since the NCAA itself keeps no gymnastics marks - it's up to the coaches' association - but the best known score was 39.3 by Alabama's Dee Dee Foster at the NCAA finals last spring.
Marlowe led a parade of three Ute all-arounders above the magic 39 mark. Kristen Kenoyer was the first to break the school record of 39.225 when she finished with 39.25, with Marlowe finishing one routine behind her. Schaerrer also scored well with 39.15, and Ute senior Jessica Smith posted her career high with 38.9. Utah State's Barb Zahl scored 38.0 and Michelle Bugbee 37.25.
Schaerrer scored 9.9 in floor exercise and Kenoyer 9.9 on balance beam - the first Ute to ever get 9.9 there, again followed immediately by Marlowe's 9.9.
"I really felt she could have had 10.0 in a couple of places," said Ute Coach Greg Marsden. "I hope before Missy's career is over, someone will have the guts to do that. I've heard her comment that that's one thing she'd like to do."
Oklahoma's Kelly Garrison-Steves scored 10.0 a couple of times three years ago on balance beam.
Marlowe was too high to worry about it. "On beam I thought it was possible, but I really didn't care because it was the best routine I've ever done in my entire career," she said. That's including the 1988 Olympics.
She didn't have the chance to watch Kenoyer perform to 9.9 just before her on beam because she was busy concentrating, but Marlowe said, "It helps when you see those scores because then you know the judges are going to do that."
Marlowe's other 9.9s came on bars and floor exercise.
Actually, it was almost impossible to keep up with all the records that were reached Saturday, but the Utes set school event records on beam (48.85 - Smith and Schaerrer added 9.8s to the two 9.9s) and floor exercise (49.15 - Kenoyer had 9.85 and Tracy Richard 9.8 to add to the two 9.9s), and Utah State set a school vaulting record (48.15) and had the second-best bars score (47.9) in school annals as well as its fifth-best floor score. Kim Johnson tied her own school vault record (9.8).
"All kudos to Utah," said Aggie Coach Ray Corn. "Having watched them for 13 years, this is by far the most dynamic team I've seen."
Actually, Utah's lineup was to have been different as Marsden had planned to rest some of his all-arounders and let Richard have a crack at it, but Marlowe, Schaerrer, Kenoyer and Smith asked him to not interrupt their flow.
Top-ranked Utah was coming off a 193.55-193.5 win last week at No. 2 Georgia. Marsden worried about a letdown.
"I was real determined to do well and try and make things happen tonight," Marlowe said.
"It was so thrilling to beat (Georgia)," said Marlowe, who admitted that win was probably a bigger deal than Saturday's record score. "I think (the meet at) Georgia was more of a confidence boost," she said. "You know when you're on the road, it's very legitimate - the least you would get."
Saturday was just as big a night for the Aggies, starting off with a near-school-record on bars and getting one in their second event, vault. They counted only one fall all night, on beam. "Our home away from home is the Huntsman Center, and my kids rose to the occasion," said Corn. "I felt we had the potential of 190," he said.
The Aggies host Southern Utah Monday night. "I'll predict a good home score Monday," said Corn, who is still without his injured top all-arounder Stephanie Green, out with an ankle sprain.
Zahl might have hit her career best in the all-around, save for a poor (9.05) vault. "I knew somebody would take up the slack in vault," she said, so she concentrated on the other events. "The team needed the scores I could produce," she said.
"We've been working on our professionalism," Zahl added, she and Corn both mentioning the team's cleaner look in all events this season that helped USU score well Saturday. "It helps to know it's within us," she said, "and it helps to come here because Utah's got it. We feel like a little-sister team to them."
"We're getting there," said Corn. "It just takes us a little longer to become polished."