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Utah gymnasts ready for prime time against Stanford

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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah's Mary Beth Lofgren dismounts the bars. Utah vs. Stanford, college gymnastics, Friday, February 24, 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

By Lya Wodraska

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Feb 22 2013 11:37AM
Updated Feb 23, 2013 11:08PM

As a young gymnast growing up in Salt Lake City, Mary Beth Lofgren remembers the days when she considered herself lucky if she could find a taped showing of a Utah gymnastics meet on TV.

Now, she and her teammates will celebrate a new era for Utah gymnastics Saturday with the first live national broadcast of a home meet thanks to the creation of the Pac-12 Network.

The meet against Pac-12 rival Stanford won’t start until 8 p.m. as dictated by the network, but no one involved seems to mind the later start.

After years of clamoring for more attention and exposure, just getting a chance to compete live on a national broadcast is an opportunity for which they are willing to wait an extra hour.

"It is ... definitely thrilling for us," Lofgren said. "To be on live TV, it makes it seem like a bigger deal, even though we know we have to approach it like it is any other meet."

Because it is live, the first event will start promptly at 8 p.m., so the university encourages all fans to arrive early if they want to see the introductions, which are scheduled for 7:45 p.m.

Utah’s season-opening meet at UCLA also was televised, and Utah’s gymnasts said they didn’t notice much of a difference for themselves, but they are eager to show off Utah’s atmosphere as well as their gymnastics.

This meet is one of 10 being televised by the Pac-12. When he was hired, commissioner Larry Scott said he wanted to give the so-called minor sports more exposure such as this, which obviously is fine by Utah coach Greg Marsden, who long has pushed for more televised meets.

"This is what our sport needs," he said. "I’ve said it before that I think our staff does the best job in the country of running a meet and this is an opportunity to showcase our event here and our fan support, which is tremendous."

The Utes, who are averaging 14,485 fans this year, are calling for their first "blackout" as part of the fun.

Of course, all the hoopla and buildup will fall flat if the Utes have a poor meet. The Utes beat Stanford three out of four times in 2012 and hold a 9-1 advantage in Salt Lake City, but they aren’t taking anything for granted after last week’s effort in which they struggled to tie with Washington.

A rough rotation on the uneven bars and some other major breaks led to a surprisingly close meet. The loss of Corrie Lothrop and the continued nagging leg injury to Kassandra Lopez hasn’t helped the Utes settle into a good pattern, but with the regular season winding down, Marsden said the team has to find a way to be more consistent no matter who is on the floor.

"I don’t know if we have hit our stride yet," he said.

Saturday, in front of a national audience, would be a good time for the Utes to do just that.

lwodraska@sltrib.comTwitter: @lwodraska

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