Norman, Okla. • Utah's gymnastics team didn't win the battle here Saturday, but they remained alive to continue the fight.
The Utes survived one of their toughest regional challenges in several seasons, as they rallied from a poor showing on the balance beam to finish second in the Norman Regional behind Oklahoma in the Sooners' Lloyd Noble Center.
Both teams will move on to the NCAA Championships April 15-17 in Cleveland, with the Utes qualifying for their 36th national championships.
The fifth-ranked Sooners won the meet with a 197.35, while seventh-ranked Utah was second with a 196.475. Washington, which was ahead of the Utes going into the final rotation, suffered falls off the balance beam and tumbled to third with a 195.3. North Carolina was fourth (195.225), New Hampshire was fifth (194.5) and Missouri was sixth (194.175).
"Of course, our goal and hope is to be at nationals every year," Utah senior Jacquelyn Johnson said. "We had some mistakes tonight, but we pulled it together and even pushed through some adversity on bars. Hopefully, we showed how strong our team was to get through it."
Utah entered the meet knowing it didn't have the big scores that could overcome the damage falls would do to the team effort.
Still, the Utes put themselves in a bind, with Stephanie McAllister falling off the balance beam, ending her school-record streak of 72 routines without a miss.
The Utes didn't have any other falls, but low scores left them with a 48.75 and in last place after the first rotation.
With Oklahoma competing like the favorite it was and Washington, one of the most-improved teams in the country, right behind the Sooners, Utah faced a huge challenge in getting one of the top spots.
The Utes responded, scoring 49.225s on both the floor and vault to move into second place after three rotations, with a 147.2. Oklahoma led with a 148.075.
Utah didn't stay in second place long, with Washington coming out of its bye to score a 49.375, giving the Huskies a 147.45 to take back second place by 0.25.
All the Huskies had to do was stay on the balance beam, while the Utes needed a big score on the uneven bars, an event in which they struggled during Friday's practice.
The Utes responded to the pressure as they have all year by ignoring it.
They posted a 49.275 on the uneven bars and even survived a little extra drama when a cable latch broke during Corrie Lothrop's routine. She still managed to earn a 9.825. The equipment malfunction delayed the Utes' rotation for several minutes, but didn't affect their momentum.
Washington, meanwhile, struggled on the balance beam and scored just 47.85.
"We were a little nervous on bars, and a lot of scary things happened," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "Stephanie had a grip roll under and almost didn't get it corrected, and Gael [Mackie] almost missed her mount, but they hung in there and did a nice job. That is the way it has been for us all year. We don't beat ourselves and we hang in there and plug away, and more often, it has worked for us this year."
Lothrop didn't feel the latch break and was almost as oblivious to the situation her team was in during the last rotation.
"I was kind of paying attention to the score but trying to do like we do in practice and focus on us," she said. "I think we did a good job controlling our nerves."
Lothrop was third in the all-around, with a 39.225, and Johnson tied for fourth with Missouri's Mary Burke, scoring 39.175.
R In short • The Utes overcome a 0.25-point deficit heading into the last rotation to take second from Washington and qualify for their 36th consecutive national championship meet.
Key moment • Utah scores a 49.225 on the floor, tying its second-best score of the year in the event, to move from last to third place following two rotations to start its comeback.
Key stat • Stephanie McAllister's fall off the balance beam ends her school-record streak of consecutive routines without a miss at 72.
All-around • Morgan Evans (North Carolina) 39.3
Vault • Stephanie McAllister (Utah), Nansy Damianova (Utah), Hope Bruce (Oklahoma) 9.9
Uneven bars • Natasha Kelley (Oklahoma) 9.95
Balance beam • Megan Ferguson (Oklahoma) 9.9
Floor • Kayla Nowak (Oklahoma), Nansy Damianova (Utah) 9.9
Vault • 49.225
Balance beam • 48.75
Uneven bars • 49.275
Floor • 49.225