Fayetteville, Ark. • While being one of the top two teams at Saturday’s regional competition here in Fayetteville, Ark., is the ultimate goal for Utah’s gymnastics team, the top-seeded Utes hope they can do more than just advance.
The Utes believe they can send a message, to themselves and the rest of the teams eyeing the upcoming NCAA Championships in Birmingham, Ala., that they are a force with which to be reckoned.
Utah, USU in NCAA gymnastics regional
P Saturday, 3 p.m.
Where » Barnhill Arena, Fayetteville, Ark.
Live scores » arkansasrazorbacks.com
The Utes won the Pac-12 title with an impressive 197.925, but they believe they can still score higher, even though judges traditionally get tougher in the postseason, leading to lower scores.
"We didn’t have our best vaults, we had some steps on landings," Utah co-coach Megan Marsden said of the Pac-12s. "We missed a few handstands on the uneven bars and dismounts on landings could have been better. About the only event we really felt we maxed out on was floor. I don’t know if we can do better than we did."
The Utes, who are ranked No. 1 in the nation on floor, scored a 49.65 at the Pac-12s.
As happy as they were with the score, the Utes are looking for more because other teams are scoring even higher. Oklahoma scored a 198.0 at the Big 12 meet and Alabama, which will be competing in its home state if it qualifies for nationals, earned a 198.25 earlier this season.
"We showed great improvements at the Pac-12s, but we know we can do more," junior Georgia Dabritz said. "We can do better with our landings for sure."
The Utes received a favorable rotation, starting on a bye before heading to the uneven bars. It’s a rotation the Utes are familiar with, since that is the format used when they compete on the road, without the byes.
Dabritz said the byes are something that took her awhile to adjust to when she was a freshman.
"The meets are so much longer," she said. "You have to bring yourself down, relax for a while, then go kill it again. It makes for a much harder meet."
Utah State also received a favorable rotation, opening with bars then beam. Arkansas received the "Olympic order," of opening on vault while UC-Davis drew the dreaded rotation of starting on the balance beam.
Utah plans to use the same lineups it has used in recent meets, although senior Corrie Lothrop has performed well enough to now be the alternate on vault and floor. Lothrop, who missed most of the 2013 season after tearing her Achilles tendon, has recovered quicker than expected and her body has held up to the rigors of the power events.
Utah coach Greg Marsden told the team Thursday that Lothrop was now the alternate, prompting a huge cheer from her teammates.
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