After experimenting with various lineups for much of the second half of the season, Utah’s seventh-ranked gymnastics team is going back to the lineups that earned it so much success in January.
Freshman Kassandra Lopez will lead off for the Utes on the balance beam and uneven bars. Lopez performed well in that role early in the season but was moved deeper in the lineup with the hope that she could earn bigger scores.
Whether it was those moves, the pressure of being No. 1 or something in the water, the Utes lost their consistent success midway through the year.
“We felt it was best to go back to what was working early on,” Utah coach Greg Marsden said. “She really did well in that role for us.”
Lopez said she feels no pressure leading off the team on the events.
“We have to do what works well for each person, and that worked pretty well for us before,” she said.
The Utes went through a light practice Friday in the arena with the rest of the teams competing in the evening session.
“We definitely got a lot done Monday and Tuesday, so we just wanted to be here,” senior Stephanie McAllister said. “We’ve never had the conference championships before, so it was fun to be here with all the hype and commotion.”
UCLA is known as the powerhouse in the Pac-12 since it won 15 Pac-10 championships and six national titles, but Oregon State has a good history, too.
The Beavers have won five conference titles, including the 2011 crown.
Last year, the Beavers hit all 24 routines and scored a season-high 197.2 to win.
The Beavers also swept the all-around category with Leslie Mak taking first, Makayla Stambaugh finishing second and Kelsi Blalock finishing third.
Mak is ranked No. 11 in the all-around this year with a 39.4 average, and Stambaugh is No. 19 with a 39.28 average.
This and that
Tickets are still available for the event. As of Friday morning, more than 8,000 tickets had been sold. … Live stats will be available through utahutes.com and pac-12.org … UCLA’s Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs is the highest-ranked gymnast from the Pac-12 on the floor, with a No. 3 ranking and a 9.92 average.
WAC on the line
The Huntsman Center isn’t the only place in Utah hosting gymnastics Saturday. Utah State is hosting the WAC Championships for the first time since 2006. Denver, Sacramento State, San Jose State and Southern Utah will compete along with the Aggies in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum starting at 6 p.m.
The 18th-ranked Denver Pioneers are the highest-ranked team in the event, with a regional qualifying score of 195.865. San Jose State is No. 33 with a 194.69, Sacramento State is No. 41 (194.16), SUU is No. 44 (193.87) and USU is No. 46 (193.745).
Tickets are $10, and $5 for seniors, students and youth.
Live results will be available at utahstateaggies.com.