Kris Takahashi should be back to do balance beam, and it looks like Jessica Smith will be back to compete in three events tonight when Arizona State visits the University of Utah in a women's gymnastics "Sizzler Supermeet" that could live up to its name.
Just getting those two performers back from injury, says Coach Greg Marsden, could add a whole point to the Lady Utes' total of last week - that would put it up to about 188.60.Then there's Smith's leadership in floor exercise and vaulting, added to expected improvement from Missy Marlowe - who's had another week to train - and upgraded bar routines from Shelly Schaerrer and Hilarie Portell.
The Utes could need every inch of improvement. John Spini's Sun Devils are "a contender again," says Marsden. They finished eighth last year in the NCAA, but, "He really thinks he's got the best team he's had in a long time.
"This should be a close one," Marsden says. "It's fortunate we're getting people back, or I'm not sure we'd be competitive with them."
Marsden wants the Utes better tonight to feel good enough about themselves for next Monday's meet against defending national champ Alabama, which had the best recruiting year in the country.
"It's something we need to build on for Alabama next week," Marsden said.
Like the Alabama meet next week, the Arizona State-Utah Supermeet will be in the Huntsman Center at 7:30 p.m.
"Just getting Jessica back is pretty meaningful in a lot of ways," Marsden said. She was an all-America on floor exercise last year as a freshman and finished fourth in both the NCAA all-around and floor exercise finals. Her all-around best is 38.50, the fourth-best total in Ute history.
Besides, this meet will be special to her since she's from Tempe, Ariz., where ASU is located.
Smith's floor exercise will be tamed a little in the tumbling because her bruised shoulder still needs to be babied some.
The addition of Smith and Takahashi on beam should add consistency to an event that burned Utah last week. They had three falls and had to count two - that's why Marsden expects to be a whole point better than the 45.65 total of last Monday.
Bars should be better, too, because Marlowe has made good use of her week of practice - only her third since the Olympics in September - and because of added difficulty in Schaerrer's and Portell's routines. Schaerrer will add another release move, and Portell adds a "D" move near the end of her routine.