It's the final frontier in gymnastics. "Pretty much sacred," says Utah junior Missy Marlowe. A few college women had trod there before her, but Monday in the Huntsman Center before an NCAA-record crowd of 15,238, Marlowe and the storied Ute team finally got that first 10.0 to call their own.
Yes, Marlowe, the former Olympian, and Utah - winner of seven national team championships, three NCAA all-around trophies, six NCAA individual-event titles, keeper of current NCAA records for team score, all-around score and attendance, and the top-ranked NCAA team in every event - had never had a 10."It almost has to be a 10.1 to get a 10," says Marlowe, "and that's the way it should be."
It was the second 10 in NCAA history on uneven bars and only the fifth 10 ever given in NCAA women's gymnastics.
Oklahoma's Kelly Garrison-Steves had two on balance beam, including one in the Huntsman Center in 1988; Florida's Pam Titus got one earlier this season in floor exercise; and Georgia's Lucy Wener scored one on bars at the 1989 NCAA finals at Athens, Ga.
Ironically, Wener, now a Cal State-Fullerton assistant, was on hand to witness Monday's tying of her record.
"That's the whole point of gymnastics. Now I can say I have one," said Marlowe, admitting, "I don't even know what I thought" at the moment the 10 flashed on the scorecard. "I saw it from the head judge first, and that's almost scarier," she said.
"I know Missy wanted to do that before her career is over," said Coach Greg Marsden.
From the 10 on, Utah had a hard time finding the ground again. Senior Jessica Smith's career-best 9.85 floor exercise was the one highlight of the second half of the meet.
Utah still posted a 193.95-186.8 victory over Cal-Fullerton to move its record to 5-0, but it was a long way from the NCAA-record 195.6 the Utes had in their last meet.
The 10 shock wasn't to blame. Marsden said the U. was flat all night, fulfilling concerns he'd voiced over the weekend that some day mistakes would be made by upper classmen. He even saw mistakes on bars, where the Utes set a school record, 49.1. "A 10 helps," he said.
"I don't think that had anything to do with anything," said Smith. "Greg said it was bound to happen; we can't be 195 every week. It's better to have it happen now and get it out of our system."
"I would not call it a down meet," said Marlowe, who had the best vault of her career, tying the school record of 9.9, prior to hitting the bars.
After bars, the Utes moved to balance beam, where falls, steps or wobbles afflicted them all. Marlowe and Kristen Kenoyer scored 9.7s, but each has had as high as 9.9, and Marlowe was thinking too much about that.
She'd been flawless her last meet on beam. Marsden wanted a 10.0 for her then, but elite judge Wendy Atkinson said the routine only had 9.9 credit, so Marlowe was actually given a perfect score for the difficulty she did. Monday Marlowe upgraded her dismount from a single to a double twist, which gave her the necessary difficulty for a 10, had she beamwalked well.Instead, there were nerves and slipups, but not the result of the 10 on bars, she said. "People were teasing me about that, but it was more that I was trying to equal last week," she said.
Marlowe won the all-around despite a fall on floor exercise, scoring 38.9, which was the school record a year ago, until Marlowe, Kenoyer and Shelly Schaerrer flashed into 39.0 territory.
Smith finished second with 38.8, .1 off her career high of the last meet. It's been a long time since she's been placed that high, despite steady improvement. "I couldn't ask for a better senior year," she says. "I'm not injured, I'm refining things, and when you have the first, second and third all-arounders in the country on your team, and you get fourth, you're still fourth - I can't be disappointed."
While it wasn't a good meet for the top three, Marsden was pleased that Smith and youngsters Tracy Richard, Meredith King and Jenny Donaldson (9.8 on bars) stepped up.
For Fullerton, it was another meet from hell. Already beset with injuries, it lost senior Lisa Dolan on the first event, when she rebounded too hard off one bar and hit her back and head on the lower bar. She lost feeling in her extremities and was taken out by paramedics on a backboard. Coach Lynn Rogers later reported the injury as a bruise, but it worried the Titans. "They were not afraid of getting hurt; they were concerned for Lisa," he said. He admitted the injury and a fall on a dismount by Stacey Harris caused him to scratch his sixth performer on bars.
"How long was that meet? A day and a half?" said Rogers. "It was a long meet; it's been a long season, too."
Stacy Fowlkes scored 38.1 for CSUF.