Utah’s eighth-ranked gymnastics team was disappointed it allowed Nebraska to spoil its Senior Night. The Utes never imagined they would get a chance at redemption so soon.
The fifth-ranked Huskers are the top seed in Utah’s NCAA Regional Championships, which start Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Huntsman Center.
Also competing are No. 17 Minnesota, No. 24 Iowa State, Arizona State and San Jose State.
The top two teams advance to the NCAA Championships April 20-22 in Duluth, Ga.
Advancing should not be an issue for the Utes, who have won 26 of the 36 regional contests in which they have competed.
However, the Utes would like to do more than just advance.
“We know it’s a chance for redemption,” sophomore Corrie Lothrop said. “We’ve been working on everything and fine-tuning everything since we lost to Nebraska, so we are excited to see where we are.”
The Utes didn’t have a fall in the 197.6-197.45 loss to Nebraska, but they did have enough bobbles on the balance beam to give the Huskers the chance they needed to win.
The balance beam also proved to be the Utes’ downfall in the Pac-12 Championships, as they had two falls.
Correcting those mistakes has been the focus for the Utes in practice this week. The Utes feel they would have won both of those meets if they had done a better job of staying on the equipment.
Saturday’s contest gives them a chance to live out the belief they have enough talent to compete with the nation’s elite.
“My feeling and approach has always been to focus on the process and be as well prepared as you can be and let the rest take care of itself,” Utah coach Greg Marsden said. “There are a lot of things you can’t control in gymnastics.
“You can’t control and can’t affect the outcome of the other performances or judges, so you just focus on what you can do. That being said, if we do that, we should be in good shape.”
In an effort to help their balance beam lineup, the Utes plan to use Lothrop in the leadoff spot instead of deeper in the lineup.
Such a placing might mean the Pac-12 champion won’t get as high a score as she might toward the end of the lineup, but the Utes believe they need her steadying presence early.
“She’s more than willing to do it for the good of the team,” Marsden said. “We hope the judges won’t judge the placement of her in the lineup but the routine. But what is most important is moving out of regionals and onto nationals, so our primary goal is to set the lineups that are going to help us do that.”
The Utes are the only team to have qualified for the past 30 national championships. Missing the cut this year would take a monumental collapse on the Utes’ part.
Still, the Utes are feeling some pressure, particularly after their recent troubles.
“We’ve had a few issues,” senior Stephanie McAllister said. “But we’ve had a good week of practice, and we’re going into the meet with the mind frame that it’s another chance to compete against Nebraska. We’ve done so many good things, and if we concentrate on that and go in there with confidence, everything should be great.”
NCAA Gymnastics Regional Championship
Final regular-season ranking • 5
Season high • 197.6
Coach • Dan Kendig, 18th year
Top all-arounders and high score • Jessie DeZiel (39.6) and Emily Wong (39.6)
Of note • DeZiel is ranked third nationally in the all-around and won the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, while Wong won the Big 12 all-around title.
Final regular-season ranking • 8
Season high • 197.55
Coach • Greg Marsden (37th year) and Megan Marsden (3rd year)
Top all-arounders and high score • Corrie Lothrop (39.625) and Stephanie McAllister (39.525)
Of note • Lothrop scored a career-best 39.625 to win the Pac-12 all-around title. This is the 12th time the Utes have hosted a regional championship. They have won 10 of those titles and placed second to Florida in 2010.
Final regular-season ranking • 17
Season high • 196.25
Coach • Meg Stephenson, 14th year
Top all-arounder and high score • Dusti Russell (39.45)
Of note • Picked to finish seventh in the Big Ten in the preseason, the Gophers have been a bit of a surprise this year, taking third with a 195.95.
Final regular-season ranking • 24
Season high • 196.025
Coach • Jay Ronayne, 6th year
Top all-arounders and high score • Celine Paulus (39.5) and Michelle Browning (39.425)
Of note • Senior Paulus won the Big 12 vault title with a 9.95. The Cyclones tied with Missouri for second, scoring 196.025.
Final regular-season ranking • 28
Season high • 195.875
Coach • John Spini, 32nd year
Top all-arounders and high score • Beate Jones (39.3)
Of note • Finished sixth in the Pac-12 Championships with a 194.55 and lost to the Utes 196.15-194.0 earlier this season.
San Jose State
Final regular-season ranking • 35
Season high • 195.85
Coach • Wayne Wright, 11th year
Top all-arounders and high score • Thomasina Wallace (39.575)
Of note • Finished fourth in the WAC Championships and is 0-5 against the Utes.