Cleveland • Friday's NCAA gymnastics competition left one staff praising its lineup decisions while another left the Wolstein Center second-guessing itself.
Just as they said they might do, the Utes changed their vault lineup based on how the gymnasts warmed up. First, the Utes replaced Victoria Shanley with Mary Beth Lofgren before the meet started based on how the gymnasts practiced leading up to the competition.
Then, before the Utes competed Friday, Lofgren was replaced by senior Gael Mackie.
The jostling around of the gymnasts proved to be a crucial move for the Utes, who scored a 49.275 to earn a spot in Saturday's Super Six of the NCAA Championships by scoring 196.2.
Mackie scored a 9.85 as the anchor in just her fourth vault of the year. All of Utah's counting scores were 9.8 or higher, helping them tie previous marks for the second-best team effort of the year.
"Greg didn't make that final decision to put Gael in that spot until late," Utah coach Megan Marsden said. "Gael likes going last because it helps her to not feel pressure so we let her finish it off and it's not as big of a deal to her. Her thinking is if the others do a nice job, she can just finish it off and that is what she did. She had great amplitude."
While the Utes were happy with their lineup decisions, Florida coach Rhonda Faehn was upset with herself over her choices.
The top-ranked Gators opened the meet with a 48.125 on the balance beam, their lowest score on any event this year.
Leadoff gymnast Elizabeth Mahlich fell as did Alaina Johnson, competing third.
The struggles were similar to Florida's showing at regionals, where falls on the balance beam nearly doomed the Gators, who advanced by beating Boise State by just 0.025.
After that showing, the Gators had several mock meets, and Faehn felt confident in the lineup based on those results. However, Friday's effort proved to her she should have made some changes.
"It was a lesson learned by me," Faehn said. "I probably shouldn't have had Elizabeth in that spot even though she hit in the intrasquads, I think it was in the back of her head and was tight and made mistakes. I should have switched that up."
Balance beam doomed the Gators last year, too, when they hosted the NCAAs. A favorite to win, Florida fell to fifth place.
Friday's result gave the Gators the distinction of being the first Florida team since 2005 to fail to qualify for the Super Six.
"It's extremely disappointing," Faehn said. "But as I told the team, it takes more than talent to win championships."
Utah top vault scores
Jan. 7 vs. UCLA • 49.275
Jan. 28 vs. Stanford • 49.275
Feb. 4 vs. ASU • 49.225
Feb. 11 vs. Washington • 49.325
April 2 NCAA Regionals • 49.225
Friday NCAA Preliminaries • 49.275