As far as homecomings go, Jim and Meg Stephenson could think of better ones.
The former Ute assistant coaches and current Minnesota Gopher coaches got to see plenty of old friends but weren't quite as happy with the results of the gymnastics meet as Utah romped to an easy 194.950-192.175 win."We didn't expect to win this competition in Salt Lake, but we did expect to compete," Jim Stephenson said.
To be fair to the Gophers, it wasn't as if they just came into town and gave up. It was that Utah, despite missing two of its top performers, is simply unbeatable in its own arena.
And with a crowd of better than 9,000 fans on hand to wish the second-ranked Utes a happy Valentine's Day, Utah made sure the best part of the Stephensons' Utah reunion wasn't found on the Huntsman Center floor.
Freshman Shannon Bowles turned in yet another stellar all-around performance with a 39.50 score. Her lowest score came on the night's final routine as she turned in a slight-bobble on the floor for a 9.80.
Bowles may have been the star of the meet, but Ute coach Greg Marsden and his gymnasts credited a pair of unlikely heroes for saving the meet.
Angelika Schatton and Ashley Kever filled in splendidly for Traci Sommer and Theresa Wolf - out with a bad back and illness, respectively.
"The people that filled in for us did a great job on short notice," Bowles said.
Marsden, also, was impressed with his "benchplay."
"I was extremely pleased with Ashley Kever and Angelika," Marsden said. "They did a good job and really gave us a great performance when we needed it."
But the unexpected changes in the lineup still disrupted things enough that Marsden was upset with himself. Schatton fell on her final tumbling pass on floor and without anyone ready to perform on floor, the Utes had just five athletes available.
"You can call that a coaching error," Marsden said. "By the end of next week we'll have some people ready, and we won't have to count that fall."
Counting falls isn't necessarily something the Utes have to worry about with Bowles, though.
The freshman member of the national gymnastics team is rock solid and ready to give her routines a little boost. "I still have some upgrades, but I feel pretty confident in my routines right now," Bowles said. "Hopefully we'll have those in next week or so."
Denise Jones and Angie Leonard also turned in strong performances in the all-around to help lift the Utes to the win. Jones scored a 38.80 and Leonard, despite falling on the vault, finished at 38.725.
The ninth-ranked Gophers didn't have an all-around competitor and ended up counting two falls on the beam to wrap up the Stephensons' less-than-perfect return to the state they coached in for four years.