Utah has fallen out of first place in this week's women's gymnastics rankings, which are this season based on Regional Qualifying Scores; Utah State dropped to 15th behind Washington, and Brigham Young stands 22nd in the ratings.

The state's teams, plain and simple, could use good scores tonight in the six-team High Country Athletic Conference championships at the BYU Marriott Center at 7 o'clock.This season, the HCAC meet includes the three Utah schools, New Mexico, Boise State and Denver University.

The HCAC meet is important as far as postseason rankings, which will determine which teams make the NCAA regional, which will be held April 1 at Utah. Teams qualify for the regional on their RQS scores, which include the highest two home and two away meets and the next-best score of either for each team. Utah led the nation until this week, when defending NCAA champion Alabama took over for the first time all season.

For Utah, the HCAC score could count double because it's almost certain the Utes will qualify for the NCAA championships at Georgia April 14 and 15, and the RQS is combined with the regional total to form a National Qualifying Score, which determines seeding and preferential starting order for the championships.

But tonight's meet is even more critical to the Aggies and Cougars, who first hope to make it to the regional field. The regional field right now shows Utah No. 1, followed by Oklahoma, Arizona, Nebraska, Arizona State, Utah State and Brigham Young, with New Mexico on the Cougars' heels. Seven teams and eight unattached individuals make the regional field leaving USU and BYU in critical positions.

All three Utah schools have set school scoring records this season, but so has about everybody else, and even Boise State has scored 189.1.

"It's what we score that's going to be important (tonight). We're looking to replace a 184.5 road score at New Mexico," says Aggie Coach Ray Corn. "We're the type of team that's always on the bubble." A good score tonight could move the Aggie RQS to around 188.

New Mexico could also make a big move with a good score tonight because it is still counting at 180.25 on the road in the RQS; if they score 186 tonight, they'd improve about a point in the RQS.

BYU's current 22nd ranking doesn't include the team-record 189.05 the Cougars scored Monday at Utah because it wasn't reported in time, so another high score tonight could give the Cougs two good scores to work with and one home dual meet left - against USU March 25. The Aggies have a home meet with New Mexico Monday night before going to BYU next Saturday.

"I certainly like our rotation," says Corn about the HCAC meet. Utah State starts on bars, one of its best events, has its two weaker events in the middle and finishes on vault, its top-scoring event. "The bugaboo," adds Corn, "is the balance beam; that's when we're going to find out who the women are." He said the Aggies need to control their emotions there.

BYU Coach Brad Cattermole says his team gained enormous confidence scoring 189.05 at Utah Monday and is looking forward to the big-crowd home meet. There's all-new equipment to be used, and the Cougars are excited about that, too.

Cattermole hopes for a 190 - a score the Cougs might have come close to Monday if top all-arounder Korie Jackman hadn't been sick. She scored 9.8 in vaulting and 9.5 on bars, but she tired in the second two events, stumbling in floor exercise and falling off the beam, where she's capable of 9.7 or better with a unique side-aerial move.

Utah is healthy - and so is the coach's family. Assistant Coach Megan Marsden, wife of Coach Greg, came home from LDS Hospital Friday with their first child, Montana Gregory, born early Tuesday following the Utes' best-ever score Monday night of 192.80.


(CHART) HCAC Championships

At BYU Marriott Center, 7 p.m.

UTAH - Ranked No. 2 nationally by Regional Qualifying Score (191.9), 10-2 record, best 1989 score 192.80 (school record), best all-arounders Missy Marlowe and Patti Massoels with 38.65 totals.

UTAH STATE - Ranked 15th (187.28 RQS), 7-9, best score '89 188.90 (school record), best all-arounder Tana Call-Davis (37.90).

BOISE STATE - Ranked 20th (185.37 RQS), 13-6, best '89 score 189.10 (school record), best all-arounder Cherianne Calkins (38.25).

BRIGHAM YOUNG - Ranked 22nd (185.70 RQS), 6-8, best '89 score 189.05 (school record), best all-arounder Marianne Williams (38.0).

DENVER U. - Ranked 26th (185.07 RQS), 9-7, best '89 score 186.45 (school record), top all-arounder Jeanne Hoffman (37.55).

NEW MEXICO - Ranked 33rd (185.06 RQS), best '89 score 188.40 (school record), best all-arounders Iliana Carrillo and Lisa Pank (37.85).