Fayetteville, Ark. • Utah coach Greg Marsden glanced at the NCAA gymnastics bracket, gave a wry smile and said, "Well, it’s never easy."
He is right about that.
The Utes, who advanced to the NCAA Championships scheduled for Birmingham, Ala., April 18-20, will be in the same session as Florida, Penn State, Nebraska, UCLA and Alabama.
Florida won the national title last season while Alabama, which will have the home-crowd advantage, won in 2011 and 2012.
"I say it every year, it gets tougher and tougher," Marsden said. "Every year there are a couple of teams that are capable of advancing and they have a mistake and don’t."
The afternoon session will comprise LSU, Stanford, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma and Illinois.
The NCAAs will mark the fifth time Utah and UCLA have competed this season. The only time UCLA got the better of the Utes was at Michigan in a tri-meet.
"We should just compete every other week," joked UCLA coach Valorie Kondos-Field. "The last few years the parity has gotten so great, any of the teams competing on the first day could win the national championship."
Solid effort on beam
Utah senior Mary Beth Lofgren has earned a 9.9 on the balance beam the last three meets, helping the Utes score three of their four highest beam scores at the end of the season.
Utah scored 49.5 against Georgia in the regular-season finale, 49.275 at the Pac-12 meet and 49.2 Saturday.
Lofgren credited the whole team’s mental outlook for the improvement on the beam.
"We’ve all worked hard to make it a strong event for us," she said. "I’m proud of the whole team."
The Utes also scored 49.275 against Arizona State on Feb. 1.
While Saturday’s mark wasn’t the season high, Marsden said he thought it was the best beam set of the year.
"They’ve really started to believe in each other on that event and that has been reflected in the last four meets," he said.
The Utes were nearly shutout of individual titles despite winning the regional. Nansy Damianova tied with Arkansas’ Katherine Grable and UCLA’s Olivia Courtney for first on the floor with a 9.95 to represent the Utes.
Georgia Dabritz’s reign as the uneven bars came to an end when the junior took a step on her dismount Saturday.
Dabritz, who has won the regional title the last two years and won the Pac-12 title with a 10.0, scored a 9.9 on Saturday to finish tied for second.
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