Norman, Okla. • Utah junior Cortni Beers once used to be best known as the gymnast who changed her hair color almost every week. Now, she's just known as a changed gymnast.
The switch is a good thing, too, because Beers is having her best season for Utah's gymnastics team, which competes in the NCAA Regional meet Saturday in Norman, Okla., starting at 4 p.m.
The trip is a virtual homecoming for Beers, who grew up in Tulsa, Okla.
Ever since Utah's regional destination was announced last week, Beers has been texting and calling friends telling them to attend the meet.
"I've told them they can't sit on the OU side, they have to sit on the Utah side," she said.
They might need to sit close, too, because they may not recognize Beers.
Once someone who got lost in the lineup and struggled with consistency, Beers has blossomed into a two-event star on the uneven bars and balance beam this year.
She has scored 9.825 or higher in eight of her 11 balance beam routines and had a career best 9.875 against Florida on March 4.
She struggled early in the season on the bars, falling in two of Utah's first three meets, but has been one of the Utes' best since then, scoring 9.8 or higher in the last seven meets.
"I had a few minor mishaps, but I am feeling a lot stronger at this point than I was last year," Beers said. "I'm excited to go home and show what I can do. I've got a lot more confidence and have done more numbers of routines. I'm not nervous like I used to be in my first year out there."
Utah coach Greg Marsden always thought Beers, a former national team member, had talent.
However, the impact she made on the team wasn't what he had hoped for because of her inconsistencies. A discussion with her following the 2010 season and some new dedication has made the difference, he said.
"Last year was a roller coaster, and when we did the evaluations, I told her the No. 1 thing with her was she could be a 9.9 one night and a 9.1 the next night," Marsden said. "I told her she needed to step up and be more consistent and to her credit she has done that."
Unfortunately for Beers, breaking into the vault or floor lineups aren't an option for her. She has a chronic back injury that prevents her from training those events.
Although it's disappointing that Beers can't compete on other events, the positive outcome is that she is able to focus more on her two events and tap into her potential, Marsden said.
"She has evolved into one of our top gymnasts on the two other events," he said. "She is just in a much better place overall. She is more confident, stronger and in better shape. Her family hasn't seen her compete that much and this weekend is a great opportunity to see her."
Beers never really considered attending Oklahoma, which was under the guidance of controversial coach Steve Nunno at the time. Nunno, who is best known for coaching Shannon Miller to an Olympic gold medal, retired in 2006 following an NCAA investigation which revealed the gymnastics program held too many mandatory practices.
Since then, Oklahoma has grown into a strong gymnastics program that took second last year at the NCAA Championships and is one of the favorites this season. Beers doesn't have any regrets about her college decision. In fact she has doesn't have any regrets at all. As Marsden said, she has changed from a gymnast who flew under the radar to being out in front.
"I'm so excited," she said of the trip. "I want to show them what I can do."
Overview • Six regional meets take place Saturday, with the Utes competing in Norman, BYU competing in Denver and SUU competing in Corvallis. The top two teams from each meet advance to the NCAA Championships April 15-17 in Cleveland, Ohio. Utah is the second seed in its region behind host Oklahoma while SUU is the fourth seed in Corvallis and BYU is the sixth seed in Denver.
Of note • Utah, which starts on the balance beam, will be without freshman leadoff gymnast Fumina Kobayashi, who broke her foot this week in practice. Senior Jacquelyn Johnson, who has competed on the beam just three times, falling once, is scheduled to take Kobayashi's place.
One to watch • The Denver regional is considered the toughest, with top-ranked Florida, No. 12 Arkansas and No. 13 Boise State all in the mix.
Denver Regional • No. 1 Florida; No. 12 Arkansas; No. 13 Boise State; No. 19 Denver; No. 20 Arizona; No. 27 BYU
Tuscaloosa, Ala., Regional • No. 2 Alabama; No. 11 Penn State; No. 14 Illinois; No. 22 Auburn; No. 25 Central Michigan; Kentucky
Corvallis, Ore., Regional • No. 3 Oregon State; No. 10 Nebraska; No. 16 Iowa; No. 31 Southern Utah; San Jose State; Michigan State
Ann Arbor, Mich., Regional • No. 4 Stanford; No. 9 Michigan; No. 16 Ohio State; No. 21 Iowa State; No. 23 Minnesota; No. 24 Kent State
Norman, Okla., Regional • No. 5 Oklahoma; No. 7 Utah; No. 17 Washington; New Hampshire; Missouri; North Carolina
Athens, Ga., Regional • No. 6 UCLA; No. 8 Georgia; No. 18 LSU; North Carolina State; Maryland; West Virginia