Being the top seed at an NCAA regional and the fifth-ranked team in the country doesn’t make you immune to nerves.
Utah’s gymnastics team found that out.
However, despite some wobbles and extra steps here and there, Utah did what it needed at its regional Saturday to advance to its 33rd straight NCAA championship meet.
The Red Rocks finished with a score of 197.3 to outduel No. 8 UCLA (196.6) and No. 17 Arkansas (196.375).
As a result, both Pac-12 schools — Utah and UCLA — advance to the NCAA championships.
The win didn’t come easy as Utah trailed the two teams after its first two events. After hitting a season-best 49.6 on uneven bars at the Pac-12 championships, Utah put up a 49.25 to open its regional. It was its third-lowest set of the season for a team that ranks No. 4 nationally.
“We missed some handstands, missed some little things, which was a little atypical in that event (bars),” said Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden. “We will chalk it up to being nervous for our first event, but I think every team had to deal with nerves.”
Marsden was especially happy with his team’s effort on its next rotation. Utah hit for a 49.2 on beam.
“We were solid on beam,” Marsden said. “The scores were tight, so the event score may not reflect that, but that was probably our best beam set of the season.”
Mary Beth Lofgren led the way on beam with a 9.9, while Kailah Delaney recorded a 9.85.
“We knew this rotation would favor us if we could get through the first two events clean because the leg events have been strong for us from the get go,” said Marsden.
Having narrowed the gap, but still trailing, Utah hit for a 49.525 on floor. Georgia Dabritz and Becky Tutka notched 9.925s, while Nansy Daminova concluded Utah’s run with a 9.95. The effort gave Damianova her third regional floor title and second in a row.
“Nansy’s just been rock solid all year, but she’s been at her best in the last few meets,” said Marsden.
The floor effort catapulted Utah to the lead after UCLA faltered on the bars and Arkansas struggled on the beam. From there, the margin was too much and Utah sealed the win on vault despite tying its lowest score of the season at 49.325.
“The reason we won tonight is we did a good, solid job on all four events,” said Marsden. “We didn’t give away an event and the other teams did give an event away.”
The NCAA championships are April 18-20 in Birmingham, Ala.
Utah State, BYU and SUU fail to advance
Utah State had its worst start of the season as it watched a handful of gymnasts fall on the bars and beam. Its 46.3 on bars was a season-low event score. But the Aggies used a bye after the first two rotations to regroup and hit for a 49.075 on floor. They finished with a 191.875 for a sixth-place finish at the Arkansas regional.
Brigham Young also finished sixth at its regional in Seattle. The Cougars notched a 194.65 as Alabama and Nebraska advanced. KayCee Gassaway was the only BYU gymnast to hit for higher than a 9.8 as she recorded a 9.825 on vault in an uncharacteristic effort by the Cougars.
Southern Utah placed fifth in Minneapolis with a 195.15. Oklahoma and Illinois advanced out of this regional. The Flippin’ Birds hit for a 49.175 on vault, which was their best showing. Virginia Brownsell and Stacie Webb led the way with 9.875s.