Shortly before the Pac-12 Championships, Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden correctly guessed the Utes would be either starting or finishing on the balance beam.
Whether it is by draw, pre-determined selection or rotation based on seeds, the Utes always seem to get saddled with the beam at the beginning or end of their competitions in the post-season meets.
Well finally, after enduring yet another undesirable rotation that contributed to their disappointing finish at the Pac-12s, the Utes have a format they can embrace for the NCAA Regionals in Tuscaloosa.
The Utes will start with a bye then the uneven bars for their first event, meaning Utah will finish with the floor and vault, the Utes’ best two events.
“It is great for us because it’s the rotation we are familiar with on the road,” freshman Breanna Hughes said. “It should be a good flow for us.”
Utah started on floor at the Pac-12s and, even though they had a strong beginning, their 49.4 was only good enough to beat Stanford on the event out of the teams that competed in the evening session (UCLA and Oregon State both posted 49.45, as judges seemed to loosen up their scoring as the night wore on).
Such a rise in scoring is typical and part of the human element of judging that gymnasts accept, even though they admit it is still frustrating at times.
“I was pleased with how we started,” Marsden said. “We couldn’t have started any better, but as the meet went on, scores did get higher and we weren’t able to take advantage of it.”
In the end, whatever conservative scoring the Utes were dealt didn’t hurt Utah as much as their effort on the balance beam did as they crumbled under pressure. Three subpar routines and a surge by Oregon State dropped them from first to third.
“There is a lot of pressure to do all your routines well,” Kassandra Lopez said. “But when you are focusing on an event like that in those situations, it is a lot of pressure.”
At regionals, the Utes will start on bars — an event they’ve shown improvement on throughout the season — and finish on the power events.
The rotation is almost as good as having the “Olympic order” of starting on vault and ending on floor.
“Everybody loves that rotation because vault is high energy,” Marsden said. “But it doesn’t always happen that way and you have to make the best of the hand you are dealt. For us, this should be good.”
More good news for the Utes is Alabama will be on the uneven bars when they are on the beam, which means the crowd shouldn’t be too much of a factor in distracting the Utes.
Alabama and Utah will finish at the same time, with the Tide on the floor and Utah on the vault.
BYU has a similar rotation to Utah’s, starting on the bars and finishing on a bye.
Even with the failings of the Pac-12 meet in their minds, the Utes believe they are good enough to advance to the NCAAs, but a little help from a friendly rotation is welcomed nonetheless.
“Starting on a bye will let us get relaxed,” Lopez said. “Then we can get into the zone and get those harder events out of the way first. Hopefully we can let loose after that.”
Alabama • vault, bye, bars, beam, bye, floor
Utah • bye, bars, beam, bye, floor, vault
Iowa St. • Beam, bye, floor, vault, bye, bars
Denver • Bye, floor, vault, bye, bars, beam
BYU • Bars, beam, bye, floor, vault, bye
Kent St. • Floor, vault, bye, bars, beam, bye