In the 1980s, when Utah was making its reputation as the nation's strongest women's gymnastics team ever with six straight national championships and only one NCAA finish below second, the Utes' biggest competition was often Arizona State.
The Sun Devils finished second to the Utes in the 1983, 1985 and 1986 NCAA championships, beat the Utes in the 1983 and 1987 regionals and were second to Utah in the '84, '85, '86 and '88 regionals.
The Utes, 12-1 and ranked second this week, are still nationally prominent, but the 6-7 Sun Devils come into the Huntsman Center tonight at 7 as a team that is young, hurt by injuries and hoping to ride Utah's coattails a bit. If Utah scores highly it is coming off a season-high 197.85 last week at home against Washington judges could be generous to ASU, which would like to get a high road-meet total to help its Regional Qualifying Score.
The RQS an average of six meets, three of which must be on the road, with the high score tossed out determines weekly rankings and postseason participation. ASU stands 31st nationally and is sixth in the South Central Region rankings. Only the top six per region are invited to the postseason. A good score tonight in their final regular-season meet would help the Sun Devils breathe easier.
ASU assistant coach Shelly Schaerrer-Eaton is a former Ute from the early 1990s and will be honored tonight at 6:45 along with more than 50 other former Utes as the team celebrates 30 years in business 30 years that have been more successful than any other collegiate women's gym team with 10 national titles.
The meet will be taped for a delayed telecast Saturday at 5 p.m. on KJZZ Ch. 14 with Schaerrer's former U. teammate Missy Marlowe as a commentator.
Tonight is also Ute Senior Night, their last home regular-season meet. Annabeth Eberle and Gritt Hofmann will be honored prior premeet, with their parents making trips from Reno and Berlin, Germany, for the occasion. Eberle has been ill but is expected to perform.
Ute coach Greg Marsden wants to see a continuation of last week's results. He had asked the Utes to concentrate on starting aggressively and performing with style "in a way that will separate us" from postseason competition. Against Washington they did just that.
Tonight he'd like more of the same. "We need to eliminate execution errors, especially the things we seem to consistently be doing," he said.
Ute sophomore Rachel Tidd continues to have problems from an ear infection that caused her to leave last week's meet halfway through, and she is questionable tonight.ASU's defending national beam champion, Ashley Kelly, may be down to one or two events with a foot injury, just the latest of a string of problems for the Sun Devils.