Fayetteville, Ark. •Utah’s gymnastics team didn’t just earn a berth in the NCAA Championships, the Utes powered their way into the event.
Utah won the Fayetteville Regional with a 197.3 Saturday while Pac-12 rival UCLA also advanced with a 196.6.
Storylines Utes roll to another regional titleIN SHORT » Utah wins its 28th regional title to advance to the NCAAs while Utah State is eliminated after struggling on the uneven bars.
KEY MOMENT » Utah goes from third to first by posting a 49.525 on the floor.
KEY STAT » Utah’s Mary Beth Lofgren has scored a 9.9 on the balance beam in the last three meets.
Vault » Katherine Grable (Arkansas) 9.95
Uneven bars » Samantha Peszek (UCLA) 9.95
Balance beam » Peszek (UCLA) 9.95
Floor » Nansy Damianova (Utah), Olivia Courtney (UCLA) and Grable (Arkansas) 9.95
All-around » Peszek (UCLA) 39.7
Arkansas (196.375), Arizona State (194.425), UC-Davis (193.9) and Utah State (191.875) didn’t make the cut.
Utah is the only team to advance to the NCAA Championships every year. The Utes will make their 33rd trip to the NCAAs, scheduled for April 18-20 in Birmingham, Ala.
"It never gets old," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "I never take it for granted. People ask me if I still get nervous for meets and big events and I always do. If you don’t, you shouldn’t be in it."
There were plenty of nerves early for the Utes.
The Utes thought opening on a bye before the uneven bars would be a good rotation for them, but it turned out to be challenging instead as the Utes looked sluggish and scored a 49.25.
The score was the third-lowest of the year for Utah as several gymnasts had minor breaks such as steps on landings and imperfect handstands.
While the Utes were struggling, UCLA opened with a 49.525 on floor and Arkansas delivered a 49.25 on vault.
Any weakness on the balance beam would have put the Utes in a dire situation. Luckily for Utah, it didn’t fold under pressure and scored a 49.2.
All of the counting scores were in the 9.8 range or higher; Mary Beth Lofgren (9.9) and Kailah Delaney (9.85) led the Utes.
It was a solid effort, but the Utes were still in third after two rotations with a 98.45 while UCLA had a 98.65 and Arkansas had a 98.625.
But worries turned to celebrations as the Utes bounded into first with a 49.525 on floor, led by Nansy Damianova’s 9.95.
"I had no idea where we were, but it didn’t bother me," Damianova said. "We were pretty confident."
Utah finished the meet with a 49.325 on the vault.
The landings weren’t perfect, but the Utes didn’t need them to be.
"It was a different meet for us, with the byes and all the waiting, but we handled it OK," junior Tory Wilson said. "It wasn’t our best meet but we did our job."
Marsden was cautiously optimistic as well, knowing Utah was finishing on its best events.
"Bars and beam have come a long ways, but there is no question we were looking forward to floor and vault," he said. "Those are our strengths."
Doing anything but winning the region and advancing to the NCAAs would have been disappointing for the Pac-12 champs.
Now that they are headed to the finals, the Utes get a chance to make up for last year’s disappointing ninth-place finish.Next Page >
Fayetteville, Ark., NCAA regional team scores
Utah » 197.3
UCLA » 196.6
Arkansas » 196.375
Arizona State » 194.425
UC-Davis » 193.9
Utah State » 191.875
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