We're trying a lot not to focus on the outcome going in, just one routine at a time and just seeing where that ends up. —Kailah Delaney
SALT LAKE CITY — Following a week off after winning its NCAA regional, the Utah gymnastics team has its sights set on winning the NCAA national title, but gymnasts on the team understand that comes one routine at a time.
That's the focus heading into nationals Friday, where the No. 5 Red Rocks will open on vault in the second of two six-team semifinal meets, competing against No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 3 Alabama, No. 8 UCLA, No. 9 Nebraska and No. 11 California. It's the first time Utah has opened NCAA nationals on vault — considered the home rotation — since 1993.
"There's a lot of great teams in our session and it's going to be a really tough competition, but we've just got to focus on ourselves," senior gymnast Kailah Delaney said before the team practiced on Monday. "We've used this term a lot: 'Stay in our Utah bubble.' We just have to focus ourselves and stay focused on each routine that we do, just do the best we can and at the end we'll see where we end up. We're trying a lot not to focus on the outcome going in, just one routine at a time and just seeing where that ends up."
No. 2 LSU, No. 4 Florida, No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Auburn, No. 10 Stanford and No. 12 Minnesota will compete in the first of the two Friday sessions.
Utah won the Salt Lake City regional on April 2, scoring a 197.125. That score was tied for the third-highest among regional scores throughout the country. UCLA also qualified for nationals out of the Salt Lake City regional with a 196.375 score.
"I think they built some confidence with such a great showing at regionals," Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden said. "I do think they know that probably the toughest is yet to come in terms of competition, but I do think the fact that they had a great regional showing catapults them into this part of the year."
The regional performance also created a positive vibe in practices last week and into this week. The team leaves Wednesday for the national championships held in Fort Worth, Texas.
"I do think the girls are loose, comfortable and confident and I think that's a good position to be in at this point in the year," Marsden added.
The second of the two semifinal meets is slated for 7 p.m. CDT in Fort Worth. The top three finishers of that meet will advance to the finals or "Super Six" on Saturday. In a change this year, six judges will score each routine with the highest and lowest offsetting and the four other scores used to determine the final score. Also, the semifinals will double as the individual championship meet, with individual crowns awarded there instead of a seperate meet.
The finals will begin at 8 p.m. CDT on Saturday.
"I think this is the event where we put everything together — all our hard work and all the meets that we've done — and I think we're all really excited to get to nationals and show everyone what we've been working on," senior gymnast Kassandra Lopez said.