One second, Utah freshman Nansy Damianova had a great balance beam routine going at the Utes' meet at BYU. The next second she was on the mat, having fallen off while performing a move near the end of the routine.
The one small slip meant she had to settle for a 9.125 instead of a 9.85 or higher. The mistake also highlighted a major dilemma the Utes have with Damianova, a 2008 Canadian Olympian.
When she hits her beam routine, Damianova easily can deliver one of the team's highest scores. However, she is too inconsistent for the Utes to count on that score, making her a high-risk option.
While her score could mean the difference in a placing at Saturday's NCAA Regionals or at the NCAA Championships, Utah coach Greg Marsden has to decide whether it's worth the risk.
"It's a 9.1 or a 9.9 kind of thing," he said. "She just isn't confident on that event and it has been her Achilles' heel throughout her career. She has come a long ways, but I'm not sure she can get there this year."
As much as she wants to contribute on the event, Damianova understands if she doesn't make the beam lineup Saturday.
"On beam you have to be warm, and ready and awake and sometimes it's hard to get all these aspects ready at the same time for me," she said. "I know I have to find a way to do that more often and I've seen progress in beam since I've been here training, but I have to see how it goes."
While he'd love to be able to use Damianova in the beam lineup, Marsden said he hesitates to put too much pressure on her.
"It's like a batter's slump," he said. "The more you think about it, the worse it gets. She has come a long ways, but I don't know if we can take the risk of using her at nationals."
The Utes have been working hard to make up for lost ground due to injuries and illnesses, and Marsden feels much better about the team's progress than he did a week ago.
Victoria Shanley (back), Corrie Lothrop (ankle) and Fumina Kobayashi (back) all have returned to practice.
Lothrop, who hasn't competed in the all-around since Feb. 18 against Michigan due to her injury, is practicing on all four events again.
"We had a great week of practice," Marsden said. "We don't want to overdo things but we want to stay sharp. Hopefully we're all in a pretty good place now."
Lothrop was encouraged by the way the ankle responded to the week of practice.
"I've been training 100 percent and it feels good," she said. "I'm finally doing the routines like I want to be doing instead of having to be careful."
By luck of the draw, the Utes will open their competition on the balance beam Saturday. Some consider that a difficult place to start compared with the adrenaline events of floor or vault, but Megan Marsden, who oversees the beam coaching, is taking a positive outlook on the rotation.
"We've tried to look at the positives that we can set the tone on the event," she said. "At the same time we don't want to make too big of a deal about it because then if you go on to nationals and get it last, you have to retract those comments. We've learned it's best just to lay low and say it is what it is."
P Saturday, Norman, Okla., 4 p.m.