Utah's gymnastics team doesn't have to wait and wonder just how it stacks up against the competition in the Pac-12. It should have a good idea of where it stands, oh, say, two rotations into Sunday's meet.
That is the good and the bad of opening the season against the top-ranked team in the country.
The Bruins, who finished second to Alabama at the 2011 NCAA Championships, have a team that boasts eight All-Americans, including 2011 NCAA beam champion Samantha Peszek, 2010 vault champion Vanessa Zamarripa and 10-time All-American Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs.
As their credentials suggest, the Bruins are a seasoned team, with many having the experience of helping UCLA win the national title in 2010.
As for the Utes, well, they remain a work in progress. Utah finished a surprising fifth last year at nationals despite a freshman-laden team.
The Utes are still young this year, with 11 of the 15 gymnasts being freshmen or sophomores.
Just like last year, coach Greg Marsden is hesitant to put many expectations on his team until he sees how the inexperienced gymnasts handle the pressure of their first collegiate meet.
"A lot of people haven't been through this before, so you never know what to expect," he said. "We had a great Red Rocks preview, but it's a different story when there is another team on the floor, you are on your last event and there is only a tenth or two separating the teams. There is no way to know how they are going to handle that pressure until they are in a live situation."
Still, all indications are the Utes might be just fine; at least they've shown they might have the talent to hang with a team as loaded as the Bruins.
Utah's freshman class, headlined by Georgia Dabritz, Kassandra Lopez and Kailah Delaney, who could perform on three events each against the Bruins, provided the team with an unexpected boost when they arrived on campus.
Utah's returners thought they were on top of their game until the rookies arrived and started showing them up.
"When they first got here, I was like, 'Wow, these girls are on my team?' " senior Stephanie McAllister said. "They had so much talent; they made everyone work harder. It has been good because now we're all stronger from pushing each other."
McAllister and sophomore Corrie Lothrop are scheduled to go in the all-around, but in a testament to the depth the 2012 Utes have, Marsden hates to have any tentative lineups.
He could change the lineups based on who has the best warmups because the Utes are deep in all events.
"It's so competitive in the gym every day, it's hard to determine who is where," he said. "It almost changes daily. It is going to take something like this first meet to get in there and see how they are competing."
The gymnasts are eager to see how they do as well. After months of pushing each other, they are ready to go up against a different kind of opponent.
"We always have a hard schedule, and we see good teams all year long," senior Kyndal Robarts said. "This is definitely going to be a challenge, but it should be fun. This summer when the freshmen came in it was like, 'Oh crap, we better get it together,' and I think we have."
No. 5 Utah at No. 1 UCLA
P At John Wooden Center, Los Angeles
Start • Sunday, 3 p.m.
Live stream • http://www.utahutes.com
About the Bruins • The Bruins return eight All-Americans from their NCAA runner-up team. â¦ Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs is a 10-time All-American. â¦ Sophomore All-American Sydney Sawa underwent shoulder surgery Jan. 3 but could return by the end of the season. â¦ Valorie Kondos Field is 405-94-1 in her 22nd year with the Bruins...
About the Utes • Utah leads the series with the Bruins 43-17-1 and leads 11-5 in Los Angeles, but hasn't won at UCLA since 2008. â¦ Freshmen could perform as many as nine of Utah's 24 routines. â¦ Stephanie McAllister and Corrie Lothrop are projected to compete in the all-around. â¦ Greg Marsden is 950-180-6 in his 37th year with the Utes, and co-head coach Megan Marsden is 35-20 in her third year.