Utah senior gymnast Hailee Hansen has been a specialist for the Utes, competing exclusively on the uneven bars her entire career.
Turns out, though, the walk-on has another specialty — giving her teammates a firm kick in the rear.
No. 4 Utah at No. 10 StanfordMonday, 3 p.m. MT
TV » Pac-12 Networks
Live scores » www.utahutes.com
Records » Utah (7-0, 4-0); Stanford (11-1, 3-1)
Series » Utah leads 21-5
Last meeting » Utah won 197.075-196.625, March 23, 2013
About the Utes » Utah hasn’t competed since defeating Arizona on Feb. 7. Utah’s 197.825 against Arizona was the 10th-best score in the program’s history. … Utah is ranked No. 1 on vault (49.495) and floor (49.43). … Georgia Dabritz has won 11 of the 15 events in which she has competed.
About the Cardinal » Has lost its last two meets to the Utes. … Utah hasn’t competed at Stanford since 1998, a 195.55-194.275 loss. … Only loss was to Oregon State. … Posted a 19.825 in a road win over Washington (196.2), which was the 200th win for coach Kristen Smyth. … Junior Kristina Vaculik has a season high 39.6 in the all-around.
» Sr., 5-3, Bountiful
» Woods Cross H.S.
Of note » Second-year captain. … Became only the third walk-on in school history to earn All-America honors at the 2013 NCAA Championships, doing so on the uneven bars. … Is 31-for-33 on the uneven bars in her career, including season high of 9.85. … Academic All-American. … Named Most Improved Gymnast by coaches in 2012.
Hansen, from Bountiful, is the catalyst behind Utah’s new attitude this year: a fiercer, not-going-to-be-satisfied-with-mediocrity outlook that the Utes hope can bring them more success as they face one of their toughest challenges in No. 10 Stanford on Monday in the Cardinal’s home arena.
In the past, the Utes’ response to such a meeting was that they just wanted to have fun or do the best they could and they’d be happy.
Hansen got fed up with that outlook about the time Utah slipped to ninth at the NCAA Championships last year.
Determined her final year would end differently, Hansen gathered the fellow seniors for a group meeting following one of their summer workouts and laid down the law, or a new outlook to be exact.
"None of us were happy with the way things ended last year," Hansen said. "We didn’t want that to happen again, so I knew things had to change. Getting the seniors together, talking about and figuring out what was best for the team was the thing to do."
Ultimately, Hansen, Corrie Lothrop and and Mary Beth Lofgren decided a tougher attitude was in order.
"Last year, we were too quick to let losses go, we didn’t feel bad enough about losing and got over it too quickly," Lofgren said. "This year, we knew we needed to not want to lose."
That such a sense of urgency could come from a gymnast who plays only a minor role in the Utes’ success on the bars didn’t surprise Lofgren. Hansen has always stood out from the crowd in that way, she said.
"That is the kind of person she is; I’m proud of her for having the guts to stand up and say we should do this," Lofgren said.
Hansen went so far as to post a goal sheet in the Utes’ practice gym, then devise practice partners for her teammates to help them stay on track.
Such leadership is welcome from the coaches, said co-coach Megan Marsden.
"We’ve been missing that the last couple years, someone who can really see the big picture," she said. "I thought what she was doing with the goals might last three or four weeks, but she took it seriously and it has stuck. She has held them accountable, and that has had a bigger impact."
For Hansen, her abilities to help the team other than on the competitive bars have made her career that much more fulfilling, she said.
She could have taken a scholarship to other schools but hasn’t regretted being a walk-on with the Utes, particularly now that she believes they are a different team, the kind of team they need to be.
The Utes are 7-0 for the first time since 2008, with an eye on finishing the season undefeated for the first time since 1993.
"I knew if I put in the hard work I might be able to get in there," she said of the lineup. "I am overwhelmed by what has happened. My experience has been amazing."
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