Utah's gymnastics team is a second seed in what appears to be a rather weak NCAA regional field, but just because the No. 7 Utes are going to the Norman, Okla., regional as a favorite is no reason for the Utes to rest now, Utah's gymnasts said after learning their destination Monday.
The Utes will compete against No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 17 Washington, No. 32 New Hampshire, No. 33 Missouri and No. 35 North Carolina on April 2, with the top two teams advancing to the NCAA Championships in Cleveland on April 15-17.
"Everyone thinks that Washington might not be a threat or the other teams might not be good enough, but it's not like we can go in not worrying about it," junior Stephanie McAllister said. "We can't afford to make mistakes, and hopefully it will turn out like we want."
The Utes beat Washington 196.975-195.475 earlier in the year and haven't faced Oklahoma, which finished second at the Big 12 Championship with a 196.5. That meet was won by No. 10 Nebraska with a 196.775.
The Utes have won 26 regional titles and have qualified for the national championships for the past 35 years.
Utah ended a two-meet losing streak with a 196.7-195.8 win Friday at BYU, giving the Utes a regional qualifying score of 196.57. The Utes are one of 10 teams in the 196 range, leading Utah coach Greg Marsden to predict the postseason will be a difficult one.
"We have a lot of respect for Washington, and Oklahoma was second in nationals last year and has been ranked high all season," he said. "They're a consistent, well-coached team so we know what we are going to see there, so it should be a great meet."
Utah junior Cortni Beers, who is from Tulsa, Okla., was the happiest gymnast when she learned of the destination.
"I've called and texted tons of people already," she said. "I'm telling everyone they have to sit on the Utah side, not the Oklahoma side."
Before the selections were made, the Utes were hoping for the Denver regional since it would have made for an easier travel day. However, that regional turned out to be the most competitive-looking on paper.
BYU will compete in Denver, along with top-ranked Florida as the top seed, No. 12 Arkansas, No. 13 Boise State, No. 19 Denver and No. 20 Arizona.
Florida was upset by Alabama at the SEC Championships, with the Tide posting a 197.225 to the Gators' 196.975.
Earlier in the year BYU beat Arkansas, and Boise State just won the WAC championship.
"That second spot looks like it is going to be wide open," Marsden said. "As I've said before, it's going to depend on who is peaking at the right time."
SUU, which took second at the WAC championships, is headed to the Corvallis, Ore., regional to compete against third-ranked Oregon State, which won the Pac-10 title, and No. 10 Nebraska, No. 16 Iowa, San Jose State and Michigan State.
The team that has to make the longest trip is defending NCAA champ UCLA, which is the top seed in the Athens, Ga., regional.
NCAA gymnastics regionals
Denver, Co. • No. 1 Florida; No. 12 Arkansas; No. 13 Boise State; No. 19 Denver; No. 20 Arizona; No. 27 BYU
Tuscaloosa, Ala. • No. 2 Alabama; No. 11 Penn State; No. 14 Illinois; No. 22 Auburn; No. 25 Central Michigan; Kentucky
Corvallis, Ore. • No. 3 Oregon State; No. 10 Nebraska; No. 15 Iowa; No. 31 SUU; San Jose State; Michigan State
Ann Arbor, Mich. • No. 4 Stanford; No. 9 Michigan; No. 16 Ohio State; No. 21 Iowa State; No. 23 Minnesota; No. 24 Kent State
Norman, Ok. • No. 5 Oklahoma; No. 7 Utah; No. 17 Washington; New Hampshire; Missouri; North Carolina
Athens, Ga. • No. 6 UCLA, No. 8 Georgia; No. 18 LSU; North Carolina State; Maryland; West Virginia
1. Florida 197.19
2. Alabama 197.12
3. Oregon State 196.77
4. Stanford 196.715
5. Oklahoma 196.695
6. UCLA 196.685
7. Utah 196.57
8. Georgia 196.535
9. Michigan 196.5
10. Nebraska 196.275
11. Penn State 196.21
12. Arkansas 196.06
13. Boise State 195.995
14. Illinois 195.925
15. Iowa 195.82
16. Ohio State 195.8
17. Washington 195.7
18. LSU 195.53
19. Denver 195.435
20. Arizona 195.43
21. Iowa State 195.325
22. Auburn 195.305
23. Minnesota 195.255
24. Kent State 195.245
25. Central Mich. 195.19
No. 27 BYU 195.105
No. 31 SUU 194.925
- Regional qualifying score