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Utah gymnastics: Utah gymnasts in tough session for NCAAs

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By Lya Wodraska

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 07 2013 04:11PM
Updated Apr 8, 2013 12:10AM

As the team awards were being announced at the Tuscaloosa Regional in Alabama, Utah coach Greg Marsden stood to the side and looked at the list of 12 teams that made the 2013 NCAA Championships.

"Every team there is good," he said with an expression between a grimace and a grin.

Especially in Utah’s session. As the 10th seed, the ninth-ranked Utes will compete in the evening against second-ranked Oklahoma, No. 3 Alabama, No. 5 Michigan, No. 6 UCLA and No. 16 Arkansas as determined by their national qualifying score, a combination of the regional score and the regional qualifying score.

The early session consists of No. 1 Florida, No. 4 Georgia, No. 7 LSU, No. 11 Stanford, No. 12 Minnesota and No. 17 Illinois.

The top three teams from each of the April 19 preliminary sessions in Los Angeles will advance to the Super Six scheduled for the following night.

The highly ranked teams that were upset and didn’t make the NCAAs were No. 8 Nebraska and No. 10 Oregon State.

Those two teams consistently make the NCAAs, and their failure to qualify simultaneously drove home how difficult it is becoming to reach the final meet of the year and the accomplishment the Utes achieved in keeping their streak alive.

Utah’s appearance will be its 32nd straight at the NCAAs and probably one of the more satisfying because the Utes didn’t have the services of two of their best gymnasts this year with Corrie Lothrop and Kailah Delaney sidelined by injuries.

The Utes have suffered inconsistent performances in their absence, particularly on the balance beam, but nevertheless found a way to make the NCAA field once more.

Utah was under pressure Saturday — it was tied with Denver for second going into the final rotation and delivered a 49.4 on the vault to finish second.

The Utes will need a similar heroic effort to reach the Super Six, considering Utah has lost to Alabama and UCLA this year while Oklahoma has been a constant at the top of the rankings.

The Bruins have the added advantage of competing in front of their home crowd.

But now that they have qualified, the Utes like the idea of being underdogs because they’ve competed their best in that role.

"Hopefully we can make some waves and surprise some people," Tory Wilson said. "These meets have shown anything can happen, and we’ll just go and do our best and see what happens."

Saturday’s second-place finish gave the Utes a little boost of confidence, especially after they faltered at the Pac-12 Championships under pressure.

The Utes handled Saturday’s situation much better, which Marsden takes as a sign of growth from his young team.

"We didn’t tighten up and panic, and that didn’t happen at the Pac-12s," he said. "When the scores are out of your control, you just can’t worry about them, all you can do is go out and do your best."

Now, the Utes hope their best will be good enough to keep them advancing.

"We don’t have anything to lose," Becky Tutka said. "We’re the underdogs now."

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