Utah’s gymnastics team was determined to finish its regular season with its best performance of the year. Boy, did it ever.
The No. 7 Utes, fresh off a big road loss, pulled off the upset of the season Saturday as they edged No. 2 Florida 198.125-197.875 in front of 14,930 at the Huntsman Center.
Utah 198.125,Florida 197.875
O IN SHORT » Utah’s gymnastics team snaps a two-meet losing streak to Florida by upsetting the Gators.
KEY MOMENT » Becky Tutka earns a 9.975 on the floor to clinch the meet for the Utes.
KEY STAT » Utah scores a season high on every event except the vault.
Vault » Tory Wilson (Utah) and Kytra Hunter (Florida), 9.975
Uneven bars » Georgia Dabritz (Utah), 10.0
Balance beam » Bridget Sloan (Florida), 9.95
Floor » Becky Tutka (Utah) and Georgia Dabritz (Utah), 9.975
All-around » Bridget Sloan (Florida) and Georgia Dabritz (Utah), 39.7
The win not only preserves Utah’s undefeated home record and stops a two-meet losing streak to the Gators, but also puts Utah (10-2-1) in perfect position heading into the Pac-12 Championships at Oregon State.
The Utes hosted the event last year but were denied the school’s first Pac-12 title when UCLA edged them 197.425-197.375.
But the way Utah competed Saturday, they have to be thought of as a serious threat in next week’s event.
"We’re at a good point right now," said junior Tory Wilson, in a slight understatement. "We want to keep it going and just do our stuff."
Their stuff was good enough to beat the mighty Gators, who just two weeks ago earned the highest score in the country this season with a 198.425.
That the Utes were just a few tenths short of that mark was a surprise given Utah’s inconsistency this year, especially after losing top gymnast Corrie Lothrop.
But the Utes finally competed like they practiced Saturday. They used season highs on nearly every event to beat the Gators, who lost despite not having a single fall.
"I kept thinking throughout the meet what a great college gymnastics meet it was," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "This is why fans come to these. Two good teams going back and forth and neither one giving away much to the other, and the meet comes down to the last performer or two — what a great experience."
The Utes trailed the Gators 49.55-49.45 after the first rotation, then used a 49.6 on the uneven bars to overtake them. Utah’s rotation was highlighted by Georgia Dabritz’s 10.0, the first of her career.
The fact that Nansy Damianova fell before her didn’t bother Dabritz, she said.
"We were more relaxed than ever," she said. "Normally at the beginning we tighten up. For me, it’s one of the more nerve-wracking events, but tonight I relaxed and just let it flow."
Marsden has maintained Utah’s issues on the uneven bars have been more mental than physical, a hunch proved right by Saturday’s effort.
"That is the bars team we see in the gym all the time," he said. "Sometimes you want it so badly, you can try too hard to be perfect and it gets them into trouble. They were much more relaxed and confident tonight."
Utah carried the momentum from the bars into the balance beam, where it earned a 49.425. The score was good enough to give Utah a 148.475-148.375 edge going into the final rotation.
Normally such a margin is good enough for the Utes to win at home, but nothing was guaranteed against the Gators, who set a school-record 49.6 on the balance beam in their last meet.
But the Utes weren’t going to be denied, with every gymnast scoring 9.875 or higher. Becky Tutka locked up the win when she scored a 9.975.
The Utes finished with a 49.65 on the floor, while Florida had a 49.5 on the beam.
So can the Utes keep up their confidence next week? Utah will be going up against some of the best teams in the country, including host Oregon State, which is ranked No. 9, but Dabritz for one likes the Utes’ chances.
"We’ve been taking a step forward each meet," she said. "We just have to continue that."
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