Utah gymnastics: Slumping Utes seeking breakout in Pac-12 meet
Gymnastics • After “timid” outing at Florida, Utah will try to reassert itself at conference meet.
Published: March 21, 2012 04:30PM
Updated: March 19, 2012 11:53PM
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Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune Mary Beth Lofgren competes on the beam during a meet against Utah State at the Huntsman Center on Jan. 13.

Utah’s gymnastics team likens its current situation to a batter’s slump. The Utes feel like they’ve been swinging wildly lately but don’t want to make things worse by focusing on the negativity. Instead, they’d like to bust out of their hole with a grand slam.

There is no better opportunity for them to do so than Saturday, when the Utes host the first Pac-12 Championships.

The seventh-ranked Utes are the second seed and will compete at 7 p.m. with fourth-ranked and top-seeded UCLA, No. 8 Oregon State and No. 11 Stanford in the 7 p.m. session.

Competing in the 2 p.m. session will be No. 17 Arizona, No. 22 Washington, Arizona State and California.

The seedings were based on the teams’ regional qualifying scores.

While the winner of the meet can come from either session, chances are the victor likely will come from the later group, given the teams’ rankings.

“It’s definitely going to be tough,” sophomore Mary Beth Lofgren said. “It’s going to give us a good preview of what nationals could be like.”

The Utes lost to UCLA in the season opener and beat Oregon State and Stanford in Salt Lake City.

Utah ended the regular season losing its last two meets, but remains optimistic it can win the school’s first Pac-12 title.

“UCLA is the favorite, without question,” Utah coach Greg Marsden said. “But I think on any given night any of those teams can win it. It came down to our last routine with Stanford, and Oregon State didn’t have a great meet here but we know they are capable of doing much better.”

In addition to competing at home, the Utes were given another advantage thanks to their second seed. According to a blind draw at the coaches’ meeting held earlier in the year, it was determined the second seed would start on vault and end on floor, a rotation that often is preferred by most teams.

“Vault is a good event for us, and the nerves work in our favor because adrenalin is going to be pumping and you can use that on that event,” Marsden said. “Bars and beam you have to get your emotions under control and relax and approach those events totally differently.”

The Utes were disappointed in their mistake-riddled 197.9-196.475 loss at top-ranked Florida, but said Monday they feel they can finish the season in much better fashion.

“We aren’t giving up,” senior Stephanie McAllister said. “We have to go into the Pac-12s being more confident. We were timid at Florida, and we’ve already talked about the need to go in there and go all out this week and keep our chins up.”

The Utes say they are going to avoid putting any pressure on themselves to win Saturday’s meet by treating it like any other competition. The problem is, they are all well aware the competition isn’t just a regular meet.

The Pac-12 asked the Utes to host the meet because the school is known for its large following. The Utes admitted there is some responsibility that comes with hosting.

“It’s awesome we get to have it here with our fans,” McAllister said. “Hopefully, we can go in and do our thing and we’ll do fine.”

Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships

Saturday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

2 p.m. session: No. 17 Arizona, No. 22 Washington, Arizona State and California.

7 p.m. session: No. 4 UCLA, No. 7 Utah, No. 8 Oregon State and No. 11 Stanford

The lowdown: Even though the teams will compete separately, the winner can come out of either session.

Of note: The public can attend Friday’s practices in the Huntsman Center. The afternoon group will practice from 1-2:40 p.m. and the evening group, including the Utes, will practice from 3 to 4:40 p.m.

Top 25 Rankings

Team QS Previous

1. Florida 197.395 1

2. Oklahoma 197.31 2

3. Alabama 197.155 4

4. UCLA 197.14 3

5. Georgia 196.995 5

6. Nebraska 196.96 6

7. Utah 196.705 7

8. LSU, Oregon State 196.55 10/8

10. Arkansas 196.545 9

11. Stanford 196.315 11

12. Penn State 196.23 12

13. Ohio State 196.115 13

14. Boise State 195.99 15

15. Auburn 195.965 14

16. Minnesota 195.88 19

17. Arizona 195.87 18

18. Denver 195.865 17

19. Missouri 195.825 16

20. North Carolina St. 195.715 20

21. Michigan 195.71 21

22. Washington 195.595 24

23. Illinois 195.545 22

24. Kentucky 195.49 23

25. Iowa State 195.275 NR