All season Utah’s gymnastics team has used the mantra “Women at War,” to emphasize their newfound competitiveness.
While their slogan might not be viewed as politically correct by all, it does seem a little appropriate for their meet this week as they head into the deepest of enemy territories.
The Utes, who have struggled to compete as well on the road as they do at home this year, face their most difficult test in the regular season finale against the top-ranked Florida Gators on Friday.
Not only must the Utes deal with the Gators’ rabid fan base and all their gator-chopping, but also the fanfare of Senior Night and a team motivated to finish its season undefeated at home.
The Utes, with their average crowd of 14,352 fans, like to boast they possibly have the most difficult atmosphere in which to compete. However, Gainesville has been far from kind to the Utes.
Utah hasn’t beaten the Gators in Gainesville since 2001 and are 2-6 overall there.
Two years ago, the Gators thumped Utah 197.55-196.5 in the regular season then beat them again in the NCAA Championships when the Utes suffered two falls off the balance beam and finished sixth.
Those memories are still with some of the Utes, especially the seniors who have been the driving force behind their motivation this year.
“We know we can do well at home but we have to go on the road and be on the top of our game, too,” senior Kyndal Robarts said. “We have to go in there and be mentally prepared. We’ve had the ‘Women at War’ saying and that is what we have to be.”
The Utes say one of the reasons they haven’t been as strong on the road is the lack of an intense atmosphere.
There won’t be any lacking in that department against the Gators, who have a strong following and are known for their raucous crowds, particularly against a non-SEC team such as the Utes.
“We’re definitely competitive with them and know about the whole rivalry thing with the SEC,” senior Stephanie McAllister said. “But we’re looking at it as a chance for us to work on the mental side of our gymnastics.”
As for the physical part of the competition, the Utes believe they can compete with the Gators, despite their recent 197.6-197.45 loss to Nebraska.
The Gators beat Nebraska 196.95-196.825 on March 4 and have been off since then.
“We still have room for improvement, we know that,” Utah coach Greg Marsden said. “But this is going to be a big mountain for us to climb. It will be a good way to test ourselves in a difficult environment and see how we do.”
College gymnastics No. 7 Utah at No. 1 Florida
P Friday, 5 p.m.
Records • Utah (7-2), Florida (10-1)
About the Utes • This is the second time the Utes have faced a top-ranked team. Utah lost at UCLA 196.075-196.025 in the season-opener. … Utah’s highest event ranking is on the vault, where it is seventh (49.32). … Utah leads the series with Florida 31-12.
About the Gators • Only loss was to Alabama. … Have three all-arounders ranked in the Top 15, Ashanee Dickerson (No. 6, 39.41), Kytra Hunter No. 12, 39.32) and Marissa King (No. 15, 39.305).