Utah took a 1.05 lead through the first rotation over Nebraska Saturday night at the NCAA Midwest Gymnastics Regional, but the Utes went next to balance beam. "We were on the verge of self-destructing," noted Coach Greg Marsden.
In the nick of time, Patti Massoels, stomach pains and all, saved her club. Utah's second and fourth beamwalkers fell, and Massoels was up fifth with Missy Marlowe, who'd fallen off bars, as the Utes' No. 6 beamworker.Massoels, suffering from a yet-undiagnosed stomach disorder, came up with 9.75 on beam, her best ever, and got the Utes back on track.
"You really need something like that to make it happen," said Marsden. "With each successive fall, it gets harder for the next person." And Marlowe already had one fall. But she popped a 9.8 to follow Massoels on beam.
Massoels went on to tie Oklahoma's Cassie Frey for the all-around title, both with 38.75s, and she helped the Utes to a 192.80-192.40 victory over top-seeded Nebraska.
Utah thus gets the automatic bid to the NCAA Championships April 14-15 at Georgia and will be seeded third behind UCLA and Alabama. Nebraska, which came into the meet with the nation's second-best Regional Qualifying Score, will make the at-large field at nationals.
It looked Saturday night, without knowing West Regional scores, like the top six would be Alabama, Utah, UCLA, Nebraska, Cal-Fullerton and maybe Oregon State, with Georgia, the East Regional winner, Arizona State, Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma in the afternoon session.
Unofficial seeding for NCAA Championships, based on National Qualifying Scores, is:
1. UCLA 192.8966; 2. Alabama 192.6766; 3. Utah 192.55333; 4. Nebraska 192.34; 5. Georgia 192.33666; 6. Cal Fullerton 191.54666; 7. Florida 191.2; 8. Oklahoma 190.19666; 9. Oregon State 190.8; 10. Arizona State 189.310; 11. Arizona 189.31; 12. Ohio State (regional score unavailable.)
Oklahoma and Arizona State tied for third Saturday with 190s, Arizona scored 188.90, Utah State 188.30 and BYU 187.
Nebraska's Lisa McCrady finished third in the all-around with 38.60, followed by Utah's Shelly Schaerrer at 38.55 and 'Huskers Michele Bryant and Molly Carpenter with 38.40s. Utah State's Tana Call-Davis placed 13th at 38.0, justahead of Utah's Kris Takahashi at 37.90 and BYU's Korie Jackman at 37.80.
Nebraska had its problems on bars, having to count a fall. "You win championships on beam and bars and we broke on bars," said Coach Rick Walton.
"We've heard this around the country - wait till regionals and Nebraska will not hold up. We silenced a lot of critics. We scored a tenth and a half above our average. I am very proud."
"They are every bit as good as we are," agreed Marsden. "Both Nebraska and Utah have to be considered legitimate contenders."
Utah totaled 48.60 on both bars and floor exercise and added 48.0 on vault, its final event. Nebraska started with 48.40 in vault and 47.55 on bars, then hit 48.20 and 48.25 in beam and floor.
Utah's Hilarie Portell on bars and Kristi Pinnick on floor tied for the meet's best score with 9.85s. Pinnick broke the school record for that event; Portell tied the school record.
Massoels hadn't seen her teammates fall on beam, "but I could tell from the crowd that there had been some breaks. I thought of that at first," she said, "but then I said that's the wrong attitude, I just need to hit."
For Frey, it was a second-best total of the season; she's had 38.90. She was glad to have hit beam since Oklahoma had trouble there during their dual meet here in February.
McCrady said the 'Huskers were trying to hit all 24 routines and came close with 22, but she and Walton crowed about going 6-for-6 on beam after troubles on bars.
Utah State Coach Ray Corn said the Aggies "had a great meet. We did bars as best as we have all year," he said, adding that vault and floor were near the top of their game, too.
For BYU, it may have been jitters from its first-ever NCAA Regional appearance, although Coach Brad Cattermole didn't want to use that excuse. The Cougars started on beam and had four falls, including Jackman and Marianne Williams. "That killed us. Right from the beginning we couldn't make anything happen," Cattermole said.
Jackman, who'd scored a Utah-record 38.95 all-around last week, did notice a difference between this and other meets. "Everything was so fast - hey, I'm on beam. I don't think I was really there. It took me a while to realize what was going on."