Utah's gymnastics team hasn't competed outside of the state since January. Such a schedule might be good for the gymnasts' academics and social life, but it has done little to get the Utes ready for the postseason, in terms of environment.
Good then that the Utes compete at Oregon State on Saturday, a destination known for its avid of following of gymnastics which should give the sixth-ranked Utes just the challenge they need to sharpen them for their April run.
The Utes will compete at a yet-to-be determined site for the NCAA Regionals and then at the NCAA Championships hosted by Cleveland if they qualify.
While Denver looks like the most likely destination for regionals at the moment, there is a chance the Utes could end up in Corvallis again, a scenario which gives more value to Saturday's showdown against the fifth-ranked Beavers.
"It's definitely good in a lot of ways to go to Corvallis now," junior Stephanie McAllister said. "We've had a lot of home meets and those have been fun, but for the postseason we'll be in different arenas and on different equipment so it's a good experience to have."
McAllister is one of the few who can speak from experience. Utah's freshman class has performed 52 percent of Utah's routines this year. While they've exceeded expectations and have just one fall out of the 106 routines in which they've competed, Utah coach Greg Marsden understands they are still on a learning curve. That curve gets a lot steeper in April when championships are on the line.
"I don't set a schedule intending to pad it for the win-loss thing, I want to see how we do against the best and in certain situations so we can learn to be tough," Marsden said. "This is a tough place to compete, especially since it seems they're competing at the right time."
The Beavers are coming off a season-high 197.0 that was enough to propel them past No. 3 Stanford, which was the Cardinal's first loss.
After this meet the Utes travel to BYU then await their destination for the NCAA Regionals, which are held on April 2.
"This is our last shot until the post-season against a team that, unless something unforeseen happens, will be a contender for the Super Six this year," Marsden said. "Just like any other night we are focusing on ourselves and want to make sure we compete relaxed and confident and that kind of thing, but it will be a good situation because the team understands how competitive the meet is going to be."
Utah at Oregon State
P At Gill Coliseum, Corvallis, Ore.
Time • Saturday, 8 p.m.
Records • Utah 7-2; Oregon State 16-5
Series history • Utah leads 55-6
Last meeting • Utah, 196.625-196.05 (April 22, 2010)
About the meet • Victoria Shanley (back) and freshman Corrie Lothrop (ankle) have been hindered by injuries in the past two meets. â¦ Stephanie McAllister leads Utah with 12 wins and is ranked No. 5 in the all-around (39.385). â¦ The Utes are 15-6 in Corvallis and have won the last three meetings at Oregon State. â¦ The Beavers are ranked No. 1 on the uneven bars (39.34). â¦ Four of the five largest crowds in Gill Coliseum for a dual meet have been against the Utes.