Birmingham, Ala. • While the Utes’ main goal for Friday’s competition is to qualify for the Super Six, there are other rewards available for the Utes on Friday.
The individual all-around champion will be crowned from Friday’s competition and the top four gymnasts in each event from each session will advance to Sunday’s individual event finals.
Utah’s best hope for the all-around title lies in junior Tory Wilson, who won the Pac-12 all-around crown and finished the regular season ranked 12th.
Being in the same session with Alabama, UCLA and Florida works in Wilson’s favor, since she will be able to go head-to-head with some of the best gymnasts in the country.
UCLA’s Samantha Peszek, Alabama’s Kim Jacob and the Florida duo of Bridget Sloan and Alaina Johnson are among the favorites Wilson will be on the floor with Friday.
Utah coach Greg Marsden downplays the individual competition, preferring his team not focus on it.
“It’s always nice to be represented, but sometimes you can try too hard with those things and you don’t perform as well as you could,” he said. “We like to be more low-key.”
Individually, the Utes believe Georgia Dabritz could qualify on all three of her events, while Becky Tutka and Nansy Damianova have shots at qualifying on the floor.
Dabritz leads the team with 22 wins this season and finished the regular season ranked No. 1 on the uneven bars.
Wilson and Kailah Delaney lead Utah’s strong vault lineup and finished the season tied for second in the national rankings. Corrie Lothrop could advance on the uneven bars or balance beam.
Her secret is …
UCLA coach Valorie Kondos Field said one of the secrets to Peszek’s success this year has been the addition of hot yoga to her training regimen.
Kondos Field said Peszek is taking the classes four times a week.
“She has been able to be a lot more flexible than she was in the past,” Kondos Field said. “She is healthier than she has been in many years and I attribute that to what she has been doing out of the gym.”
Tried and true
The Utes don’t expect to make any lineup changes for the NCAAs, believing they have found all the right combinations.
The balance beam lineup has been shuffled the most, with Dabritz performing well in her few appearances. However, the Utes expect to continue to use Breanna Hughes instead of Dabritz.
Since falling off the beam against Washington on Feb. 28, Hughes has earned 9.8 or higher in the following three meets.
“I think the low point for us was against Stanford when we had falls, and we have been climbing up from there ever since,” Utah beam coach Megan Marsden said. “They’ve been hitting in practice and their mental outlook is good so I’m confident in them.”
Up and over
The Utes spent most of Thursday’s practice session getting accustomed to the equipment and being on the podium, where the equipment is placed on a flooring that is several feet off the floor. The setup is similar to what is used at the Olympics and other international competitions, but it was still new to some of the gymnasts.
Wilson said the equipment felt good — even the balance beam, which the Utes thought might be wobbly due to the podium setup.
“I liked it and the floor had a lot of spring to it,” she said. “We are ready for tomorrow.”