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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Greg Marsden, long time gymnastic coach at the University of Utah talks with Corrie Lothrop during practice.

SALT LAKE CITY — All year long, the Utah gymnastics team has used last year’s disappointing finish as motivation.

But on the eve of the program’s 39th consecutive trip to the NCAA nationals, last year’s failures will be the last thing on their minds.

“It is hard because all year we have been using it as motivation to work harder and set higher goals for ourselves,” said junior Georgia Dabritz. “But going into (nationals) we kind of can’t think about that because it brings back bad memories and some other things that will stir you up a little. I think this weekend we need to go in with a clean slate and not think about last year or the years before.”

Last year the Utes failed to advance to the super six, the championship round of the meet, for the first time since 1999.

“We can’t let ourselves go back to where we were last year,” said senior Lia Del Priore. “We have to focus on all the good things that we’ve done this year."

And this year’s team has plenty of accomplishments from which it can draw confidence.

Not only did the Red Rocks earn the U.’s first Pac-12 championship, they won regionals last weekend to prove they plan on doing more than participate this weekend in Alabama.

It builds even more confidence in the athletes because those wins came on the road under massive pressure.

“(Confidence is) the one thing they were lacking and they’re building that with these wins,” Marsden said.

ROOM TO IMPROVE: As good as the Utes have been this season, both coaches and athletes see opportunities to improve.

“We feel like at this point we have not had the meet of our lives yet,” said co-head coach Megan Marsden. “At regionals, on both bars and vault, we felt like we left tenths on the table. We didn’t have falls, but just small deductions. ... It was a good performance; it wasn’t a great performance. And that’s not a bad place to be as you head into the championships with a group of girls that are building confidence.”

ACADEMIC HONORS: Seven of the 12 student-athletes named to the Pac-12 All-Academic Team compete for the University of Utah. Breanna Hughes (3.98 GPA), Hailee Hansen (3.96 GPA), Mary Beth Lofgren (3.88 GPA), Kailah Delaney (3.86 GPA), Becky Tutka (3.81 GPA), Dabritz (3.77 GPA) and Priore (3.74 GPA).

Hansen, a Bountiful graduate, is a three-time first-team all-academic selection, while Lofgren, Tutka and Del Priore are two-time winners.

Three other Utes made the second team: Tory Wilson (3.66 GPA), Corrie Lothrop (3.62 GPA) and Nansy Damianova (3.61 GPA).

Three other Utah gymnasts met the grade requirements, but were either injured or freshman, neither of which are eligible.

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