Apparently, Utah's gymnastics team is going to open on uneven bars "until we get it right," said coach Greg Marsden.
The NCAA on Sunday announced its assignments for the 2005 NCAA women's gymnastics championships at Auburn University on April 21-23, and the No. 1 Utes were happy to be selected for the afternoon session of team preliminaries and bemused to again be starting an NCAA competition on bars.
It will be the fourth straight time Utah has opened NCAA competitions on bars. The Utes started Saturday's regional on bars as well.
It all started with the 2003 Super Six meet at Nebraska,
when senior Theresa Kulikowski subluxed a shoulder that later required surgery. Her fall in the first event took the air out of the Utes, who finished sixth.
Utah started on bars in team preliminaries and also in the Super Six last year at UCLA and finished sixth.
Saturday, the Utes opened on bars and did well, then had to overcome two falls on beam before winning the NCAA North Central Regional at the Huntsman Center to qualify, along with second-place BYU, for the national finals in less than two weeks.
BYU will be in the evening session for team preliminaries. The Cougars will open with the bye then compete on bars, the team's most challenging and inconsistent event.
Southern Utah's Leah Sakhitab, who qualified from Saturday's North Central Regional as an at-large competitor for nationals, will rotate with Iowa State in the evening session and start on balance beam.
The NCAA draw for the April 21 meet has Utah in the early session along with third-ranked Louisiana State, Nebraska, Michigan, Penn State and Oklahoma.
The evening session will see BYU up against two-time defending champion and second-ranked UCLA, plus Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Iowa State.
The teams that finish in the top three in each session advance to the April 22 Super Six championship finals. The individual all-around winner will be decided by Thursday's sessions. Individual event championships in vault, bars, beam and floor are competed on Saturday night, April 23, by those who qualified that Thursday.
"I like being in the afternoon session," said Marsden.
The main reasons are that, if a team qualifies for the Super Six, the afternoon preliminary gives that team a chance to get treatments, eat dinner at a normal time, get to bed at a reasonable hour and have a little more recuperative time.
And as for starting on bars again, Marsden said, "Man, we ought to be used to it by now. I'm fine with that rotation."Being in the evening session can be an advantage in that there's a bigger crowd, but this year much of that crowd will likely have a Southeastern Conference flavor with Georgia, Florida and Alabama all within easy driving distance of Auburn.