Kragthorpe: Win would mean more in April
In this sport, the signature moments come only in April. Nothing that happens in January will really be remembered when the only gymnastics meet that matters is staged in Florida in three months.
Oh, yeah? Try telling that to just about anyone in Friday's national-record crowd of 15,552 in the Huntsman Center.
After the Utes' 196.550-196.500 victory over the five-time defending national champions, surely none of their fans left the building wanting to believe it was anything other than a huge achievement.
Utah co-coach Greg Marsden was not about to discourage such thinking. Not very much, anyway.
"Anytime you beat Georgia," he said, "it's a big deal."
All-around winner Daria Bijak was not playing along. "I don't really care about these things," she said. "I don't really care if it's Georgia or Iowa State. ... It doesn't matter who we beat."
Of course, she's from Germany. There is no Southeastern Conference in Germany.
The gymnasts, not only Bijak, know they have to keep improving if they intend to end Georgia's NCAA reign, after the Utes finished second three times and third twice during those five years. Yet their followers loved having this chance to witness No. 6 Utah knock off the perennial champs.
So the fans packed the house, and the Utes rocked it.
"Third meet of the season," said Marsden, who always delivers the proper summary. "Means nothing. But it was fun."
Maybe this Georgia team, with a new coach, a recent loss at Alabama, a mere No. 10 ranking and a couple of freshmen still finding their way, is not the same as ever -- or anything close to what it will become by April. They're still the Gym Dogs, though.
And when Georgia was rallying like crazy on the balance beam in the final rotation and the Utes were drawing unfairly low scores (ask anybody) on the floor, the competition was tightening more than anyone would have imagined after three events. Until the final announcement of Georgia as the "runner-up," just as in a beauty pageant, Marsden was not sure who had won.
"I was ready for the outcome to go either way," he said. "If it had turned out the other way, I still felt good about the performance of the team."
Just the same, he prefers winning.
The Utes mostly did it with big-time efforts from their all-arounders, especially Bijak on bars and floor, Kyndal Roberts on vault and Jamie Deetscreek on beam. They took control in the third rotation, when Georgia struggled on the floor and the other Utes came through nicely after leadoff performer Stephanie McAllister fell off the beam.
"Not two or three, but five -- that's a lot of people to depend on," said co-coach Megan Marsden.
In the end, though, the Utes still needed nearly every bit of senior Annie DiLuzio's closing 9.875 score on the floor to win the meet.
"I had no idea that it was that close," she said.
It was, and the result was a victory to be savored, moderately and temporarily.