No favorite yet among top teams
Even as the gymnastics season closes in on the halfway mark, no clear-cut favorite has emerged among the ranked teams.
UCLA, Oklahoma, Stanford, Oregon State, Alabama and several others have had their moments, but so far no dominating team has emerged.
Seeing the scores rise and fall around the country, Utah coach Greg Marsden predicts the 2010 NCAA Championships could be the most tightly contested of any previous competition.
Utah has actually been one of the more consistent teams, recovering from its year-low ranking of No. 11 after the first week to be ranked No. 3 one week and No. 4 the past two weeks.
Elsewhere, Oklahoma bumped Alabama from the top spot and there were changes to all of the top seven teams except the Utes. Arkansas had the biggest jump, moving from No. 7 to No. 3.
"There doesn't seem to be anybody who has set themselves up as the team to beat," Marsden said. "For a while it looked like it was going to be UCLA and then they struggled. Alabama popped out a huge score (197.45) then went on the road and got beat by LSU. It really appears the name of the game is consistency. If you are consistent and execute well a lot of teams are in the hunt."
Expecting a close race to the finish, Marsden is thankful the Utes are a host in the NCAA Regional Championships, which should give them a decided advantage in qualifying for NCAAs, since they'll compete at home.
"It really looks like a dogfight to get to the championships," he said. "To get to the final six, it would be a mistake to think about that before you are there. You have to do well each meet."
Utah's Daria Bijak (39.2) and SUU's Elise Wheeler are tied for 16th in the all-around with a 39.2 average. Utah's Stephanie McAllister is ranked No. 19 (39.138) and Kyndal Robarts is ranked No. 20 with a 39.133 average.
Robarts is ranked No. 4 in the vault (9.89) and Utah's Annie DiLuzio is No. 7 (9.84) on the balance beam and on floor (9.89).
Bijak, who has won the last three all-around titles, stepped out of her comfort zone in Friday's win at Arizona State and competed second in the lineup. After being the leadoff gymnast for much of her career, Bijak finally is comfortable moving toward the end of the lineup. She'll compete third when the Utes host Utah State on Friday.
"Looking back, it seems silly why I wanted to be first," she said. "I thought about it and I am fourth on the floor lineup and I can handle it so maybe I should try it on vault. I always worried about getting cold, but also mentally there was something. Now something has clicked and it's working out."
School, Average, Previous
1. Oklahoma, 196.425, 2
2. Alabama, 196.405, 1
3. Arkansas, 196.12, 7
4. Utah, 196.06, 4
5. UCLA, 196.042, 6
6. Florida, 19 6.02, 3
7. Oregon St., 196.01, 5
8. Stanford, 195.985, 8
9. Georgia, 195.85, 9
10. Nebraska, 195.57, 10
Others18. SUU, 194.585, 19
Friday, 7 p.m.