Utah’s gymnastics team carried the philosophy of wanting to have fun in 2013. The idea was to take the pressure and stress off results and focus on simply performing well.
It sounded like a good idea, but in the end it didn’t work.
SUU, BYU, Boise State at Utah
O Huntsman Center
Saturday, 7 p.m.
Live stats » www.utahutes.com
Records » Season opener
Series history » Utah leads SUU 19-0, Boise St. 12-0 and BYU 90-2
Last meeting » Utah beat BYU 196.4-194.475 (April 6, 2013), SUU 196.95-191.05 (Jan. 19, 2013), Boise State 196.9-195.95 (April 10, 2010).
Pressure still got to the young Utes at times as they struggled with consistency in the most critical moments. The pattern followed them right to the end when Utah suffered three falls off the balance beam at the NCAA Championships and finished ninth.
Suffice it to say, it didn’t take much for the Utes to realize they needed a change of attitude for 2014. Saturday against Boise State, SUU and BYU, the Utes hope to display their new outlook in the season opener at the Huntsman Center.
"Last year, that wasn’t what Utah gymnastics is known for," said junior Kailah Delaney said. "This year, we’re going out and being more aggressive and we don’t want to hold anything back. We weren’t happy with how things ended last year, so we knew we had to change our demeanor."
Hailee Hansen, a senior who may only crack the lineup on the uneven bars, was the instigator in changing the team’s attitude. In the end, the one-event specialist could have the biggest influence on the team’s success.
Losing standout Corrie Lothrop to a season-ending Achilles injury hurt the team in more ways than one, Hansen said.
"We had a rough couple of meets after that and it carried on in the season," she said. "We didn’t want it to carry into this year so we felt like we all had to get together and be more committed to this season."
Utah has done so well in the offseason that it now has a new problem. Where they struggled to find six bodies to fill out lineups last year, the Utes are now 10 to 12 gymnasts deep on most events.
"It’s hard to get into the lineup, but it’s better for us," Hansen said. "Last year, we just had six, that was it. This year, if someone gets hurt or something, you can put someone in who is just as confident and as good as the others. It’s a comfortable feeling knowing we have that depth."
All that depth means the Utes might not use many gymnasts in the all-around, and future lineups could be decided by how well they perform in meets such as Saturday’s when the pressure is for real.
No one is guaranteed a spot, co-coach Megan Marsden said. For instance, standout Georgia Dabritz struggles on the balance beam. If she wants to be a contender for the national all-around title, she is going to have to find consistency and earn a spot in the lineup because she won’t be given one just because of who she is.
"I’m not going to throw her a bone," Marsden said. "It’s going to be a challenge for anyone to make the all-around for us this year but it’s a good problem to have. I can’t remember when we’ve had so many options."
Corrie Lothrop, back from an Achilles tendon injury, is expected to compete only on the bars and beam to start the season, while Dabritz, Kailah Delaney and Kassandra Lopez could all compete on three events. Marsden likened deciding the lineups to "flipping a coin."
"The challenge will be seeing who competes well under pressure," she said.
While the Utes are using Saturday’s meet as a preview of what could be in store for them, the other teams will use the contest as a preview of who should rule in the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Championship, a new league created this season.
Boise State was picked to win the league in the coaches poll, Denver was picked second and SUU third, followed by BYU and Utah State.
SUU returns all but two of its gymnasts from a year ago as well as redshirt senior Alyssa Click, a two-time WAC champion on the uneven bars and 2010 WAC Freshman of the Year.
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