Gymnastics: Big night for Utes in home finale
Friday was a night of season highs and high emotions for Utah's No. 11 gymnastics team as it concluded the regular season with a 196.95-195.825 win over rival BYU.
Whether the Utes (11-3) would beat the struggling Cougars (4-10) was one of the least anticipated possibilities of the night considering BYU has never won in Salt Lake City.
More in question was if the Utes would draw enough fans to the meet to earn a milestone record for the program and how Utah's four seniors would handle the pressures of competing on Senior Night.
The results were good and not so good.
Utah's attendance of 15,030 for the meet gave the Utes a season average of 14,213 which is the highest attendance average ever for a collegiate gymnastics program. It also gave the Utes the NCAA attendance record for all women's sports this season, marking the first time a women's program other than basketball led in attendance.
For a sport still clamoring for legitimacy at the college level, drawing large crowds is just as important as wins to gain attention, the Utes know, so breaking the attendance mark was celebrated as much as the annual win over the Cougars.
"We've had such tremendous support here for such a long time," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "It's not a fluke or something that happened only one or two years or with one team. It's rewarding to me to finally be able to say our attendance was the largest of any women's sport this year."
As for the meet itself, Utah earned its high score despite some shaky routines from its normally steady senior competitors. The seniors, who were recognized before the meet, seemed to succumb to the pressure of competing in their final regular season meet in the Huntsman Center on balance beam.
Daria Bijak made her routine even more daring than usual as she fought through several balance checks and a slip of her foot that left her clinging to the beam with one leg.
She managed to stay on and smiled even more than usual when she landed knowing she'd gotten a bit lucky. The judges evidently were impressed with her tenacity too as they awarded her a 9.8.
Fellow senior Jamie Deetscreek didn't have quite as much luck as she fell off and scored 9.35. Also coming off the beam was sophomore Cortni Beers who scored a 9.15.
The mistakes left the Utes with a 48.625 on the balance beam, their second-lowest score of the season.
The seniors didn't blame their routines on the special night.
"It was really emotional at the beginning for me," Bijak said. "But then I got back in the zone once we started warming up for vault."
Marsden didn't let his team off the hook either, noting the event has been troubling all season.
"Obviously the one event we haven't resolved issues is balance beam," he said. "I promise we trains so much better. We have two weeks before regionals and we're going to have to do a lot of beam routines I'm not mad at anyone, but we need to try something different, like they are unbelievably prepared on that event."
While the Utes know they have work to do before they host the NCAA Regionals on April 10, their performance at least was good enough Friday to satisfy their home crowd.
On senior night that was enough for them.
"It was incredible to be a part of it," senior Annie DiLuzio said of the record-breaking night. "Nobody else can say that they've experienced what we've experienced here."
In short » The Utes kept their mark against the Cougars perfect in Salt Lake City, improving to 41-0 with Friday's win over BYU.
Key moment » After Cortni Beers fell off the uneven bars, Utah's final three competitors scored 9.9 or higher.
Key stat » Utah had season highs of 49.35 on the vault and 49.425 on the uneven bars.
All-Around » Kyndal Robarts (Utah) 39.6
Vault » Annie DiLuzio (Utah) 9.9
Uneven bars » Daria Bijak (Utah) 9.925
Balance beam » Kyndal Robarts (Utah) 9.925
Floor » Annie DiLuzio (Utah) 9.975
Rotation 1 » Utah 49.35, BYU 49.075
Rotation 2 » Utah 98.775, BYU 97.975
Rotation 3 » Utah 147.4, BYU 146.65
Rotation 4 » Utah 196.95, BYU 195.825