Injuries and illnesses have forced Utah's gymnastics team to go with a variety of lineups throughout the season. Hopefully, though, with the most important meet of the season ahead of them, the Utes have settled on a lineup.
Utah, which competes in the NCAA Championships starting Friday in Cleveland, expects to go with the same lineup it used at the NCAA Regionals in Oklahoma. The Utes finished second to the host school, scoring a 196.475, while the Sooners scored a 197.35.
The Utes had to use senior Jacquelyn Johnson as the leadoff on the balance beam after freshman Fumina Kobayashi broke her foot.
Johnson, competing for just the fourth time on the event this year, delivered a 9.7. That routine was the start of a good night for her as she also led off Utah's uneven bars lineup with a career-high 9.9 and finished fourth in the all-around with a 39.175.
Johnson admits she was nervous but said hitting her balance-beam routine so well ultimately led to the big scores for the rest of the night.
"It got my confidence up and I was able to hit my other routines clean," she said.
Utah coach Greg Marsden said he was confident in Utah's lineup, even if the Utes had to come from behind to qualify.
"With Jac on beam and Gael [Mackie] scoring (9.825), they did a nice job for us," he said. "It was probably the best beam routine of Gael's career and I am proud of both of them. It's what you hope for and expect from seniors."
The Utes are back to normal speed in practice after taking it easy early last week. Marsden gave the team some down time after traveling to Norman, Okla., for the long regional meet.
"It was both physically and mentally a lot to go through," he said of regionals. "It's an emotional roller-coaster ride and even if you have the best scenario and everything goes as planned and you accomplish what you want, it's a draining weekend."
Apparently, Utah's regional competition wasn't quite as draining for Marsden as it was for others who might have been watching. Marsden said he never felt the Utes were on the verge of failing to qualify for the NCAAs despite the scores.
"Balance beam was the tightest event for scoring, and bars were the loosest, so I thought if we did a reasonably good job, we'd get through," he said.
The Utes had difficulty booking flights to Cleveland. As a result, the Utes are splitting into two traveling parties for their Wednesday departure. With airline tickets at a premium, Marsden doesn't believe the Utes will have their normal large contingent of fans.
NCAA gymnastics championships
P Hosted by Kent State in Cleveland
Friday • Team preliminaries, 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. MDT
Saturday • Team finals, 2 p.m. MDT
Sunday • Individual finals, 11 a.m. MDT