Gael Mackie isn't expecting to be able to crack the University of Utah's gymnastics lineup in too many places this season as she's still playing catch-up after joining the team after Christmas following an early high school graduation and awaiting the paperwork OKs from the Canadian government and the NCAA.
But she made the bars lineup Feb. 16 at Washington and did bars again Friday night at home against Southern Utah and Utah State, scoring 9.825. She followed with 9.8 on bars Sunday at UCLA.
Also on Friday, Mackie was an alternate and exhibitioned on vault, sticking it pretty well for a non-counting 9.75.
Sunday Mackie was tossed into the vault lineup to count at the last minute at UCLA for the second-ranked, 9-0 Utes when fellow freshman Kyndal Robarts had to hold out because of a mildly sprained medial collateral knee ligament.
Told on short notice that she would debut on vault to count "gave me just a kind of a rush," Mackie said Tuesday at practice. "On Friday I did exhibition, and that helped me on Sunday because I knew what it was like. I had a lot of adrenaline, and I think that helped a lot." She scored 9.725 Sunday.
Coach Greg Marsden made two late decisions on the vault lineup, also inserting senior Jessica Duke for someone he thought was struggling. Duke scored 9.8, and the Utes posted a 49.40 that allowed them to take the lead from the Bruins after two events and go on to 197.45, their second-best score of the season and best road score. They moved to first place in the NCAA vault rankings this week."It's helpful for me to know they're capable of doing that," Marsden said of Mackie and Duke, "because while that is arguably one of our strongest events, we have had a lack of depth. We were very strong through six or seven people, but then I didn't have a lot of options earlier in the season after that."
INFIRMARY: Robarts' knee was checked by a doctor Monday, and the mild MCL sprain diagnosis was confirmed. Marsden said he's been told to "just bring her back progressively and practice as tolerated. It's one of those things where you don't know until you know. Hopefully she'll be ready to go by Oregon State," he said of Utah's next meet, March 7.
Junior Nina Kim and sophomore Daria Bijak were ill Tuesday and did not practice. For Kim, it's a second bout of illness.
Sophomore Stephanie Neff, out the last four meets with a sore Achilles, is improving to where she can do careful training. She did bars without dismounts last week and will get more involved now.
Neff banged up her left shoulder Monday when she was a victim of a hit-and-run auto accident near the Smith Center football complex. "Somebody pulled out and hit into the side of her car and then ran, squealed out and left the scene," said Marsden.
Neff said her shoulder "hurt a little bit but not bad" Tuesday.
The Dumke Center training facility is also sick for the second time this season. First, the heating didn't work. Monday, the team returned to find part of the building flooded from a ceiling leak. The vault area was affected, and several specialized mats were soaked. Marsden doesn't know if they'll dry out or get moldy and have to be replaced, which would mean ordering and waiting."Risk management is going to come in and take a look at it and decide what we're ultimately going to do," Marsden said. "In the short term, we're fine. It's an inconvenience; it's not a problem."
OFF WEEK: Utah has rarely had two meets in one regular-season weekend, as it just did, and it's rarely had 12 days between regular-season competitions, as it has now awaiting Oregon State.
"It's an awkward week," Marsden said. It's good because the ill and injured can recover, and Marsden planned to mainly work on conditioning and the kind of fine-tuning that usually doesn't get done when the team is preparing for a meet.Then again the layoff could be dangerous for a team that has hit its stride the last three meets. "I don't want them to lose their focus or lose their sharpness," said Marsden. "But at the same time, we started the season extremely healthy, and the last three weeks, we keep losing somebody. While it doesn't seem to be anything that's going to be for the season, it would be nice to stop that."