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Utah gymnastics: Utes will be top seed for Pac-12 championships

Published March 17, 2014 4:10 pm

Women's gymnastics • Utah must compete in afternoon session with other high seeds.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden is thrilled his team is the No. 1 seed for the Pac-12 Championships Saturday at Cal.

But being stuck in the afternoon session along with other top seeds instead of in prime time has Marsden far from happy. In fact, it has him irate.

The fifth-ranked Utes will compete against No. 7 UCLA, No. 10 Stanford and No. 11 Oregon State in the afternoon session, which is at 2 p.m. MDT, while the evening session, which starts at 7:30 p.m. MDT, will include No. 19 Cal, No. 21 Arizona, No. 22 ASU and Washington.

As the host team, Cal was allowed to pick the session in which it wanted to compete. The obvious choice was the evening session to help with ticket sales, but Marsden doesn't think it is fair.

"You don't run a tournament like that," Marsden said. "You work all season to earn that position and we should be competing in that final session."

The rule, which was voted in by the Pac-12 coaches, hasn't affected the traditional format of the best teams competing later in the past two seasons since both hosts, Utah in 2012 and Oregon State last year, were among the top four seeds.

It is extremely unlikely the Pac-12 winner will come from the evening session given the strength of the top four teams, but the four will have to wait until the evening session is over before any real celebrating can begin.

Both sessions will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks, but Marsden believes it is going to make for some awkward TV.

"It's complete lunacy," Marsden said. "It's just really stupid. I just can't believe from the conference office and the Pac-12 Networks marketing standpoint we are doing this."

Not all is bad news for the Utes since they'll be allowed to compete in the "Olympic" rotation order of starting on vault as the top seed. The rotations were decided by a vote before the season started and the top seed was paired with the preferable rotation.

"It certainly doesn't guarantee anything. You still have to hit all four events to win, but we are used to that format and we compete well with it," Marsden said. "We can use the excitement you get from competing on vault first and floor last to our advantage since they are our best events."

The Utes were the top seed last year, but had three major breaks on the beam and finished third behind Oregon State and UCLA.

The beam doomed the Utes in 2012, too, when Utah had two falls from the apparatus and finished second behind the Bruins.

Beam has been a struggle for Utah this season, too, but the Utes are feeling better about the event than they have in a long time after posting a 49.5 in Saturday's win over sixth-ranked Georgia.

"We are in a lot better place mentally," junior Georgia Dabritz said. "We are more confident in ourselves and as a team and that is going to be really helpful going into this next meet."

The Utes haven't hidden the fact they want to be the first team from Utah to win a Pac-12 title. Now that their opportunity is here, they aren't feeling any added pressure after stating such a goal.

"You are going to feel pressure no matter what spot you are in," junior Tory Wilson said. "It all comes down to who handles it the best." —

Top 25 Rankings

1. Florida 197.79

2. LSU 197.72

3. Oklahoma 197.66

4. Alabama 197.405

5. Utah 197.365

6. Georgia 197.2

7. UCLA 197.005

8. Michigan 196.9

9. Nebraska 196.83

10. Stanford 196.64

11. Oregon St. 196.61

12. Auburn 196.56

13. Illinois 196.495

14. Penn St. 196.41

15. Arkansas 196.355

16. Minnesota 196.305

17. Boise St. 196.2

18. Central Mich. 196.165

19. California 196.095

20. Denver 196.02

21. Arizona 195.95

22. ASU 195.745

23. New Hampshire 195.72

24. Ohio St. 195.68

25. BYU 195.675