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(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Corrie Lothrop gets some ti[ps form coach Megan Marsden, before she competes on the beam for the Utes, in Pac12 gymnastics competition, Utah vs. UCLA, at the Huntsman Center, Saturday, January 25, 2014.
Utah gymnastics: Utes feeling solid heading into home stretch

Though beam remains an issue, focus on “cleaner” routines has yielded better scores.

First Published Feb 27 2014 12:26 pm • Last Updated Feb 28 2014 06:24 pm

The biggest sign that Utah’s fifth-ranked gymnastics team is much improved from a year ago isn’t the higher scores, the wins or the consistently solid routines they are performing. It is that the Utes have just three meets remaining, including Friday’s meet against Washington, and they aren’t panicking.

At this point last year, the Utes were in a quandary, trying to devise solid lineups for events and work through some mental issues on the balance beam.

At a glance

Washington at No. 5 Utah

At the Huntsman Center

Start » Friday, 6 p.m.

TV » Pac-12 Network

Live stats » utahutes.com

Records » Utah 8-1 (5-1); Washington 4-6 (0-5)

Series history » Utah leads 45-0-2

Last meeting » Utah, 197.075-195.875 (March 23, 2013)

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Now, balance beam remains the Utes’ Achilles’ heel, but even any lingering doubts that the Utes can perform well on the beam aren’t enough to throw the Utes entirely off their game.

"We don’t have everything resolved, but we are getting there," Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden said. "What I like is we have one more meet at home before a very difficult road trip where hopefully we can build confidence on the beam again."

The Utes’ major gaffe this year was their meltdown on the balance beam at Stanford which led to a 197-196.3 loss.

However the Utes rebounded with a 49.175 performance on the beam against Oregon State. While they know they must prove they can still hit under pressure similar to what they faced at Stanford, overall the Utes like where they stand going into the final weeks of the regular season.

Even the way they handled their loss to Stanford was different. In the past, the Utes would have excused such an effort by saying they did the best they could.

This time, the seniors all met together, then addressed some ways to correct their mistakes with their coaches and teammates.

"Last year we lacked a lot of confidence, especially on beam," junior Becky Tutka said. "This year has been a complete turnaround. We feel totally different than we did last year."

Key for the Utes this year has been their ability to not just compete with a lot of power, but to do so more cleanly.

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Instead of taking hops, landing with split legs or having small breaks in the big tricks, the Utes are much more crisp, which makes it hard for judges to find deductions.

In years past, those small deductions led to a big separation between the Utes and the premier teams in the country. That gap is smaller, if not non-existent in Marsden’s mind.

"We’ve gone from having the difficulty the last few years but doing it sloppy to being much cleaner this year," Marsden said. "That is one of the things the team wanted to address. Teams like LSU, Oklahoma and Florida were all cleaner than we were. We are improving and we are scoring much higher as a result."

The Utes feel they need to be between 49.3 and 49.5 on every event to be competitive in the postseason, which starts with the Pac-12 Championships at Cal on March 22.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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