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Utah gymnasts have early wake-up calls for NCAAs
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Duluth, Ga. • Chalk with your coffee? A vault with that scone?

Since Utah's gymnastics team is competing in the early session of the NCAA Championships and the Utes are competing in the eastern time zone, Friday's competition will be one of the earliest starts the Utes have ever had.

In order to be ready for the competition, the Utes will leave the hotel at 9:15 a.m., and start their warmups at 10:15 a.m.

The early start will take some adjusting, the Utes said.

"It's definitely going to be different," Mary Beth Lofgren said. "But hopefully it won't take us long to get used to it."

Utah co-coach Megan Marsden said she felt it would be an advantage for those teams competing closer to home since they don't have long travel days or as much of a time change.

The Utes at least have some experience going back east, having competed at Michigan and Florida.

"You do have to account for it and make some adjustments," she said.

Other coaches are more concerned. UCLA coach Valorie Kondos Field, whose team competed in the Fayetteville, Ark., regional, said it took several days for her team to recover from that trip.

"It took us 11 hours to get there and two weeks later we are still dealing with back issues," she said. "I don't want to ever make excuses, but it is rough. Hopefully we'll get there early enough to get the kinks out."

The teams arrived in Atlanta on Wednesday. Stanford coach Kristen Smyth said her team left at 4:30 a.m. to catch their flight to Atlanta.

No changes expected

Utah coach Greg Marsden said he plans to stick with the same lineup he used for the NCAA regional championship.

That decision means sophomore Corrie Lothrop, who could be a favorite in the all-around, will lead off the balance beam rotation.

That position might ultimately hurt her chances in the all-around but Marsden and Lothrop said the team score is more important.

Lothrop earned a 9.775 on the beam at the NCAA regionals and the Utes posted a 49.025 as a team, the highest team score on the apparatus.

Us vs. them

With five SEC teams and four Pac-12 teams, there is a definite us vs. them flavor to the NCAAs.

"Our Pac-12 meet was one of the greatest athletic events I've been a part of," Kondos Field said. "We are so excited to have Utah come into the conference because it makes us that much stronger and we'd love to have all the Pac-12 teams in the Super Six."

The SEC teams acknowledged they might have a little advantage since the SEC Championships, won by Florida, were held in the same building only a few weeks ago.

"It's as competitive and as a charged environment as any in college athletics," said Georgia coach Jay Clark, whose school is the closest to Duluth at approximately 50 miles away. "There is a tremendous amount of respect between the teams and is a friendly as it can be, but it's going to be a fun night with four SEC teams on the floor. The crowd is definitely going to be into it."

LSU coach D-D Breaux, whose team is the only SEC team competing in the early session, said she was glad to be out of the evening session where her Tigers would have to compete with Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Arkansas.

"We haven't competed against any of the teams in the afternoon session so that is going to be exciting for us," she said. "We know the parity is incredible and it's going to come down to the last person on the last event. It's going to be a great meet."

Luck is with them

Marsden noted his team has been healthier this year than almost any team he has had in recent seasons.

About the only major injury occurred to Lothrop when she strained her triceps in Utah's win against Stanford.

The lack of injuries has allowed the Utes to stay on track with their training all the way through the postseason, which has included some rest before nationals.

"It has been a very good year," he said. "We've wanted to do enough to stay sharp but we obviously want to go in strong and healthy too."

Limping in

Oklahoma is limping into the championships in a way, having lost one of its gymnasts, Hayden Ward, to a torn ACL during the NCAA Regional Championships.

The Sooners won the event with a 197.025.

Ward's injury was the third season-ending injury for the Sooners.

"The good news is we have great depth," Oklahoma coach K.J. Kindler said. "As a coach, it is hard to make sure the seventh, eighth and ninth person is completely ready to step in and get an even score but the athletes have come out and done that."

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