When the Lady Utes open the 1989 gymnastics season Monday in the Huntsman Center against Utah State and Iowa, it appears they will be without three top performers and that three freshmen, including Missy Marlowe, will be pressed into bigger roles than they expected this soon.
Sophomore all-Americas Kristi Pinnick and Jessica Smith are both doubtful for the season opener, and junior all-America Kris Takahashi sprained an elbow in practice Monday afternoon.Pinnick had arthroscopic elbow surgery three weeks ago, and Smith fell a couple of weeks ago and irritated the joint capsule in her left shoulder.
That leaves Utah with just one all-America to perform Monday - sophomore Patti Massoels.
"We don't think any of the three are serious in terms of the long-term, but the come at a bad time because we're out of time," said Coach Greg Marsden, referring to the start of the season, which comes about a week earlier than the Utes usually start.
The injuries mean that Marlowe and fellow freshmen Shelly Schaerrer of Orem and Wendy Shelley of Chesterland, Ohio, will have big roles in their debut meet. Schaerrer was already scheduled for the all-around, but Takahashi's injury will leave the Utes with just three all-arounders including Schaerrer.
"It's challenging," said Schaerrer, whose hopes of becoming an Olympian were obscured by two years of injuries. She hasn't competed in two years.
"I like the idea - get the first shock over with," said Shelley, who trained at a small Ohio club as a Class I, has never competed in front of a large crowd and has never even seen a Utah meet before.
Marlowe, the 1988 Olympian, went from the Olympics in September until two weeks ago without training. "I've talked with her," said Marsden. "We didn't have any intention of getting her in this early, but now we are considering it.
"She's willing to do whatever she can to help the team," he said. That may include watering down routines so she will have the strength to get through them cleanly.
She worries that people will be disappointed when she doesn't do those Olympic-caliber routines, but her strength will take more than two weeks to redevelop. Timing is all right, she says.
"Hopefully, everyone will just enjoy what I do and not say I'm not as good as I was," Marlowe says. "I'm not here for that purpose," she added. Her purpose, she said, is to help the team and help return the national championship to Utah, which has finished second two years in a row after winning six straight titles.