SALT LAKE CITY — The Ute gymnasts are enjoying a nice view from atop the rankings. They jumped two spots to No. 1 this week for the first time since 2009. They also rank first on floor and on beam for the second straight week.
But the event setting Utah up for the high scores is the vault. It's the event Utah starts with at home, a place it will be this Friday for the third-straight meet as it hosts No. 4 Georgia.
"It is an easier event to start on because adrenaline works well with it," said Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden. "On bars you have to control over time more. It's been very important for us to have a strong start at home."
In its last two home meets, Utah has started strong on vault en route to overall scores of 197.4 and 197.55, respectively. The story is much different from the Utes' start on bars in their loss at UCLA to begin the season — a bars showing that left Utah in a big hole early. Though the bars' showing was part first-meet jitters and part struggles, the team knows an early deficit is never ideal especially against the strong teams left on their schedule this season.
"It's a great thing to have a good first event that sets a standard for the rest of the meet," said senior Kyndal Robarts. "It does this for your own team and the other team, who has to follow on the event."
The consistency on vault, where Utah ranks third, has set up improved scores on Utah's other three events over each meet. Utah posted season bests on bars, beam and floor against BYU last week.
"We have depth and quality from the first vaulter to the last," said Marsden. "It's an unbelievable way to start the meet."
Holding that leadoff spot is freshman Tory Wilson. Wilson was thrown into the vault lineup last minute at UCLA and hasn't looked back.
"It's exciting to be first, maybe a little nerve racking, but really exciting because there is a lot of energy from the crowd," said Wilson, who has hit all three of her vaults.
Fellow freshman Kailah Delaney has proven Utah's best vaulter. The California native ranks fourth in the country, scoring a career-best 9.95 last week to get the crowd roaring early. Her vault is both powerful and high.
"Vault has always been one of my stronger events, but I never thought I would get these scores this early. It was a goal more for the end of the season," said Delaney. "Maybe the height is because I'm taller (5-5) and because people tease me that I sprint down the vault runway."
Marsden says he's not surprised by Delaney's success, knowing she was a strong tumbler from day one. He also admits she is a funny character to be around.
"Greg and Tom (Farden) have a new nickname for me everyday," laughed Delaney. "It reminds me to have fun while we are working so hard at practice."
NOTES: Utah's Cortni Beers was awarded the Pac-12's Special Performance of the Week after following up a Ute fall on bars with the first of four 9.9s for Utah last week against BYU. She also recorded a career-best 9.9 on the beam.