Utah’s fifth-ranked gymnastics team slammed the proverbial fork into the balance beam Saturday night — been there, done that, conquered it.
The Utes used their best effort of the season — make that their best effort in several seasons — on the balance beam to beat No. 6 Georgia 198.025-197.6 in front of 15,224 at the Huntsman Center.
Utah’s win was sealed when Georgia Dabritz scored a 9.95 on the floor, then senior Nansy Damianova put the exclamation mark on the night when she earned a 10.0 in her final performance in Salt Lake City.
It was the perfect ending for a meet that couldn’t have gone much better for the Utes (10-3).
“It was emotional in the beginning because of the seniors,” Dabritz said. “But it was a great crowd and the energy was great, and we knew we had to step up our game, and that is what we did.”
While beating their archrival is always sweet, doing so with such a strong beam performance made Saturday’s victory that much better for the Utes.
The Utes have struggled on the event in critical moments at Stanford and at Michigan, but they nailed it under intense pressure Saturday.
Leading Georgia (6-5) just 98.95-98.85 after two rotations, the Utes posted a season-high 49.5 on the balance beam. The Utes average only 48.995 on the beam, but they showed Saturday night they can post as high a score as anyone in the country if they win the mental battle with the apparatus.
Freshman Baely Rowe led off with a 9.85 and was followed by Breanna Hughes, who scored a 9.875 in her first appearance on the beam since falling against Washington on Feb. 28.
Tory Wilson, one of Utah’s steadiest competitors, took things to another level with a career-high 9.925. The rest of the lineup kept up Utah’s great effort with Mary Beth Lofgren earning a 9.9, Kailah Delaney a 9.925 and Corrie Lothrop a 9.875.
“Our beam today is what we do every day in practice and we finally showed what we can do in competition,” Wilson said. “We stepped up our mental game and it showed.”
Utah coach Greg Marsden said the Utes didn’t do anything drastic in practice, but just made small adjustments in their approach to the event.
“We are getting it figured out,” he said. “If you watch, the demeanor of the team on beam is like it is on the other three events. We’ve talked about doing that in practice.”
Despite the good effort, the meet was far from over with Georgia holding its own on the floor, scoring a 49.45 to trail the Utes only 148.45-148.3 after three rotations.
Georgia kept the pressure on the Utes with a solid beam effort of its own, but the 9.95 from Dabritz was enough to give Utah the win.
The perfect routine from Damianova just gave the crowd a reason to cheer a little louder as she was engulfed by her teammates.
It was the second 10.0 for the Utes in as many weeks with Dabritz earning a 10.0 at Michigan last week.
“I wanted to have fun in my last meet, and floor is my favorite event,” Damianova said. “I’ve been wanting a 10.0 for so long, it made it really emotional.”