Backups push starters at season's mid-point
At the regular season's halfway point, Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden usually has a good idea how his lineups will look the rest of the season. That isn't the case this year.
While the last few spots in the lineups have been fairly consistent recently, the No. 5 Utes, who compete Friday at No. 16 Michigan, still are experimenting with the early spots.
The reason for doing so is a good one, as more and more gymnasts have improved and are pushing for roles.
Junior Jacquelyn Johnson is pushing for a place in the floor lineup, freshman Katelyn Mohr is doing the same on vault and senior Annie DiLuzio is challenging on the uneven bars, to name a few of the possibilities Marsden is considering.
The competition will only get stronger when Gael Mackie returns to the lineup. The junior missed Utah's 196.225-178.25 win over Utah State because of a sprained ankle and was still limping around Monday.
"We've got four people vying for two spots on floor and four on bars so it's kind of a battle," Marsden said. "We're trying to get everyone as much experience as we can and we'll continue to do that and see how the judges are evaluating routines. Then we'll make our decisions on who has been strongest week in and week out."
One hoping for a spot is senior Beth Rizzo who scored a 9.8 Friday on floor in her first competition on the event since injuring her ankle at UCLA in the 2009 season opener.
"I was really nervous but it was good," she said. "It gives me an added boost of confidence and now I know I can push it more and do more in practice."
DiLuzio is eager for her shot at the uneven bars, the only event she doesn't compete.
"I'm working hard to fix my form, I know that is the main issue," she said. "The past few times I've taken baby steps and each routine feels better."
Shuffling the deck » It's another week and another wild shuffle in the rankings with all of the schools in the Top 10 in new positions except for No. 10 Nebraska.
Utah's gymnastics team fell one spot to No. 5. Alabama regained the top spot while Oregon State had the biggest jump from No. 7 to No. 3. UCLA had one of the biggest falls, going from No. 5 to No. 9.
Oregon State scored a season high in a 196.725-194.675 win over Arizona while UCLA lost to Stanford 195.975-195.625.
Alabama defeated Florida 197.425-196.6 with both teams scoring their second-highest marks of the season.
Utah's Kyndal Robarts is tied for third in the vault (9.892) and Annie DiLuzio is 11th on the balance beam (9.838) and tied for third on the floor (9.9). Daria Bijak is tied for ninth on the floor (9.883).
SUU's Elise Wheeler is No. 15 in the all-around (39.425) and Melissa Johnson is tied for ninth in the vault (9.9).
Gaining praise » Sophomore Cortni Beers, who competed just two routines as a freshman, is a regular competitor on the balance beam and bars this season. She scored a 9.9 on the bars against Utah State, a week after notching a 9.75 at Arizona State.
"She is getting stronger and more confident as the year goes on," Marsden said. "I'm pleased with her progress. She struggled with confidence last year and I could see her growing each meet this year. She's sharper and cleaner and much more aggressive."
Ranking, Average, Previous
1. Alabama, 196.575 (2)
2. Oklahoma, 196.563 (1)
3. Oregon St., 196.129 (7)
4. Florida, 196.117 (6)
5. Utah, 196.088 (4)
6. Arkansas, 196.079 (3)
7. Georgia, 195.996 (9)
8. Stanford, 195.983 (8)
9. UCLA, 195.982 (5)
10. Nebraska, 195.721 (10)
No. 16 Mich., 195.208 (13)
No. 19 SUU, 194.585 (18)
5:30 p.m. Friday