With Corrie Lothrop sidelined by a torn Achilles tendon, Utah needs some of its other gymnasts to step up and fill her role.
No surprise, the Utes are asking junior Mary Beth Lofgren to lead the way.
Lofgren, a junior from Salt Lake City, came to the Utes unheralded, lacking the star power of some of the other well-known recruits, but she has earned quite a reputation for being a go-to gymnast for the Utes.
Lofgren is scheduled to compete on all but the uneven bars for the Utes on Saturday against No. 23 Cal.
It is a bigger role for a gymnast who seemingly continues to grow as one of Utah’s strongest competitors.
It was Lofgren who filled in for the injured Lothrop on Friday against Arizona State and it was Lofgren who set the tone in the post-meet news conference, saying the Utes were determined to not let Lothrop’s injury be a setback for the team.
“Being here has definitely been a learning process for me and I feel like now that I am an upperclassman and more mature, I can be a guide for the freshmen now,” she said.
The Utes weren’t sure what they were going to get out of Lofgren, who qualified for the Junior Olympic Championships before joining the Utes but still lacked a lot of the international competition other recruits had.
What Utah has gotten is one of the most consistent gymnasts in recent years. Lofgren didn’t have a fall in 2011, hitting 40 of 40 routines, and she went 14 for 16 in 2012. She was the NCAA regional runner-up on the balance beam and scored 9.85 on the event both days at the NCAA Championships.
The Utes need her steadiness on the event now more than ever with Lothrop out. Lofgren had a rare fall off the uneven bars Friday, but isn’t worried about the goof.
“It was so dumb,” she said. “I was so excited the routine was almost over and I’d done the hard stuff, and I just let up too early. It was a mental mistake. Lesson learned.”
That Lofgren has worked her way into the lineup on three events isn’t a surprise, given the way her season has gone.
She has been steadily improving and had her best meet two weeks ago, when she won the balance beam title at Arizona with a 9.9. That win also clinched the team victory for the Utes. Lofgren also had a 9.8 on the floor and looked strong in exhibition on the vault and uneven bars.
“She would have had a 39.25 or something in exhibition so she looked great,” Utah coach Greg Marsden said. “She is typically a very good competitor and is usually even a little better in meets than she is in practice. She gets a little cleaner and a little more precise, and that is what we need from everyone.”
Lofgren admitted she feels more responsibility now than ever to be a leader, but said she doesn’t mind.
“When I was a freshman, I was just the local girl,” she said. “They weren’t sure what I could do and I came in with Corrie, who was so good. I was just happy to be here, and I’ve worked hard to be here with names like Georgia [Dabritz] and Corrie. I’m not a superstar or anything and it has taken a lot of work, but it has been worth it.”
No. 23 California at No. 7 Utah
O Saturday, 7 p.m.
Records • Utah 5-1, 2-1; California 6-3, 1-3
Mary Beth Lofgren file
• Junior, 5-foot-3
• From Salt Lake City
• Earned All-American honors on the balance beam in 2011
• NCAA Regional runner-up on beam in 2012
• Won the Dahl Academic Award as the team’s top student athlete in 2012
• Was Utah’s Most Improved Gymnast in 2011.
• Trained at Olympus Gymnastics