The University of Utah gymnasts wanted to use Saturday’s opener to make a big statement, and they did. It just wasn’t the kind of statement they imagined they’d make.
Instead of showcasing the talents they believe may put them in the running for a national title, the Utes had to use Saturday’s opener to prove they have the grit and determination to overcome unexpected challenges and still compete well.
O In short » U. wins season opener, but not without disappointments, namely the loss of junior Kassandra Lopez to a torn Achilles tendon suffered during warmups.
Key stat » Tory Wilson wins the all-around title with a 39.4 after she was inserted into the lineup to replace Lopez.
Key moment » Georgia Dabritz scores a 9.95 on the uneven bars after two preceding gymnasts fall.
Vault » Kailah Delaney (Utah) 9.9
Uneven bars » Tory Wilson (Utah) 9.95
Balance beam » Krystine Jacobsen (Boise St.) 9.875
Floor » Nansy Damianova (Utah) 9.9
All-around » Tory Wilson (Utah) 39.4
The Utes won the meet with a 196.65, followed by Boise State (195.85), BYU (194.55) and SUU (192.025) in front of 14,910 at the Huntsman Center.
The night got off to a bad start when standout Kassandra Lopez tore her Achilles tendon during warmups. Lopez was scheduled to compete on three events, forcing the Utes to scramble for new lineups.
Dealing with a significant injury can be difficult for any team, but especially one already unsure of what to expect in a season opener.
Getting the win and a decent score earned a nod of approval from coach Greg Marsden.
"The injury kind of took the fun out of it a little bit," Marsden said. "But we started off well enough on the vault."
The Utes, who opened with a 49.425, struggled on the uneven bars with two falls, which gave No. 23 Boise State an opportunity to make the meet interesting.
The Broncos, who won the WAC title last year and entered with a No. 23 ranking, posted a 49.2 on the uneven bars to cut Utah’s lead to 147.375-147.275 going into the final rotation.
While chances of Utah ever getting upset at home when they lead going into the floor are virtually nonexistent, the situation at least gave a glimpse of the team’s ability to compete under pressure.
The Utes, who didn’t always perform their best last year in similar situations, finished strong with a 49.275 on the floor.
Nansy Damianova led the Utes with a 9.9 on the event while Tory Wilson scored a 9.8 to lock up the all-around title with a 39.4.
"We knew our floor routine was good," said Becky Tutka, who scored a 9.85. "I shouldn’t say we weren’t worried, but we had a lot of confidence in our team."
Even though the Utes have a lot of depth, Marsden admitted losing Lopez was a blow.
"She is a clean gymnast who always scores really well," he said. "She always had high scores on the bars and beam and we need others to step up, no question about that."
The Utes compared the situation to last year when standout Corrie Lothrop suffered the same injury early in the season.
"Unfortunately we are used to handling it," Wilson said. "We got together and we knew what to do and we pulled through. Maybe in the long run it will make us stronger mentally."
While Boise State hung close to the Utes, both BYU and SUU struggled with falls. BYU counted a fall on the balance beam and SUU counted falls on the everything but the vault.
BYU’s Makenzie Johnson was second in the all-around with a 39.0.
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