SALT LAKE CITY — The third-ranked Ute gymnastics team returns to action this Friday as it hosts in-state rival BYU. Utah is coming off a bye week, while the Cougars will be competing in their third-straight road meet.
The Red Rocks took full advantage of their bye week, even after the strong outing against Utah State, upgrading routines and fine-tuning skills and landings. No one benefited more than sophomore Nansy Damianova as she tries to break into the bars lineup. Damianova, who is Canadian and has competed in international meets, including the 2008 Olympics prior to arriving at Utah, had some difficulty making the transition to the bars setup most U.S. college gymnasts use. She was spared the immediate transition last season because teammate and fellow Canadian Gael Mackie also preferred the other setup.
"Last season, the coaches thought it was OK to have the FIG setup for Gael and I, but this season it's a lot of work to have for just one athlete," said Damianova. "I have been working on a different routine this year because the bar settings are different. I'm playing on the skills I had from before, but have mainly had to work on my connections."
Damianova has been a regular for Utah on the floor, scoring 9.8 or higher in both meets this season.
Also benefiting from the break was Mary Beth Lofgren, who has upgraded her beam dismount. Lofgren is one of the better beam competitors in the country already, but is excited to try the new dismount.
"It's nice to have the time this early in the season to change things and add things," said Lofgren. "I'm just ready to keep the ball rolling and get back out competing."
"You get an extra week to work on what you've wanted to improve on with the bye, and then you get this week leading up to Friday to do even more work," said Stephanie McAllister.
McAllister is currently ranked sixth on the floor behind teammate Georgia Dabritz, who remains undefeated in the event. McAllister also ranks eighth in the all-around.
"We are excited to get back in front of our fans," said McAllister. "The fans in Utah really know a lot about gymnastics and it is fun to have them cheering for both teams like they will be this Friday. There is always going to be that rivalry with BYU and it will be fun this last time around for me as a senior."
Red Rocks meet
BYU at Utah
Friday, 7 p.m.