I feel like any one of the six programs that are hosting (a regional) feel like they get a little bit of an edge. —Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden
SALT LAKE CITY — Hosting one of the six NCAA regional championships is anything but a new experience for Utah gymnastics. In the last ten years alone, including this Saturday’s meet, to be held at 4 p.m. at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, the Red Rocks have hosted four regionals.
“We have done this many times and in my opinion, we put on the greatest gymnastics meet anywhere,” said Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden.
Marsden credited many for that fact, from the university’s administrative staff, specifically meet director Anne Marie Jensen and her cadre of volunteers, to the hordes of Utah fans that regularly fill the Huntsman Center.
“We have a bunch of incredible volunteers and an administrative staff that are willing to take on an event like this,” said Marsden. “(Thanks to them), running this event is not that difficult. Tom (Farden) and I attend the meetings, make sure it all sounds like business as usual, and off we go.”
She can only hope that it is business as usual for her No. 4 ranked and No. 1 seeded gymnastics team Saturday afternoon.
Of course, if history is any indication, it will be.
The Red Rocks have qualified for nationals 42 times, which not so coincidentally is the number of seasons the Utah gymnastics program has been in existence.
Not only that, the previous three times Utah hosted regionals, in 2010, 2012 and 2016, the team finished second, first and first, respectively.
The Utes will look to make a 43rd trip to nationals by finishing as one of the top two teams in the six-team meet that features the No. 9 ranked California Golden Bears, the No. 16 Auburn Tigers, the No. 21 BYU Cougars, the Stanford Cardinal and the Southern Utah Thunderbirds.
The Red Rocks will start on floor exercise, their strongest event all year, and then move to vault, before having a bye. They will then close out the meet with the uneven bars, balance beam and another bye.
As the hosts, the Red Rocks get the benefit of the home crowd and home equipment, an edge they are grateful for.
“There is an advantage,” said Marsden. “I feel like any one of the six programs that are hosting (a regional) feel like they get a little bit of an edge.
“We get to have our fans. The Huntsman Center will be full of people rooting for our team. I know for our girls that is one of the most special experiences here at Utah and they are looking forward to being wrapped in the arms of their fans one more time this year.”
HEY NOW: The Cougars are making their ninth consecutive appearance in an NCAA regional.
BYU finished second to No. 15 Boise State at the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference championships and boasts the MRGC All-Around Champion, Shannon Hortman Evans.
Not only that, but the Cougars are more than a little familiar with the Huntsman Center, having already competed against the Red Rocks early in the season in the Deseret First Duel.
“I’m really happy with our preparation and our training in the gym,” BYU head coach Guard Young said. “It will be a challenge to be in the top-two teams, but we have the gymnasts to do it.”
In addition to Hortman-Evans, Jill van Mierlo will compete in the all-around for BYU and Young has hopes that both gymnasts can qualify for nationals.
“I’m excited to see them battle it out to try to make an all-around position to nationals.”
FLIPPIN’ BIRDS: While not considered one of the best 25 teams in the country, Southern Utah is making its sixth consecutive regional appearance and comes into the meet ranked No. 26 on floor, No. 30 on vault, No. 32 on bars, and No. 34 on beam.
Four T-Birds are ranked in the top 100 individually, led by Autumn Jorgensen who is ranked No. 65 on floor and No. 72 on beam.
Kirsten Yee is ranked No. 79 on bars, with Megan and Madison McBride ranked No. 63 and 95 on vault and floor, respectively.
INDIVIDUAL AGGIES: As a team, Utah State failed to qualify for regionals, but five Aggies will be competing, individually, at the North Central regional in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Freshman Autumn DeHarde will compete on beam and floor and junior Madison Ward will do the same on vault and floor.
Mikaela Meyer, Brittany Jeppesen and Emily Briones will all compete as well, on vault, bars and beam.
Red Rocks on the air
NCAA Salt Lake (West) Regional
No. 4 Utah (197.540) vs.
No. 9 California (196.890),
No. 16 Auburn (196.595),
No. 21 BYU (196.430),
Southern Utah (195.915)
Saturday, 4 p.m. MDT
Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City, UT
Radio: ESPN 700 AM/TuneIn.com
Online: Live scores: https://goo.gl/ySJrmc
Live stream: https://goo.gl/hY6HvY