Gymnastics: Utes get another shot at Gators
Normally, qualifying for the NCAA Gymnastics Championships is the main goal for teams competing in the regional competitions, but this time around the No. 10 Utah Utes hope to exact a little revenge, too.
The Utes, who host a regional on April 10 in the Huntsman Center, will compete against No. 4 Florida, No. 16 Auburn, No. 19 Boise State, No. 22 Denver and No. 23 Washington.
BYU is competing in the Los Angeles Regional, and SUU, which won its first WAC title Saturday, is competing in the Morgantown Regional.
The top two teams from each regional will advance to the NCAA Championships hosted by Florida, April 22-24.
Florida beat the Utes 197.55-196.5 on March 19. Getting a second chance at the Gators, who won the SEC title Saturday, and knowing the Gators will be a favorite at nationals if they qualify since it is in their arena is adding a little spice to the regional affair.
"We're all excited to get another chance at Florida and see how we can do a second time around," senior Jamie Deetscreek said.
Another storyline is Utah coach Greg Marsden and Florida coach Rhonda Faehn are longtime friends after Marsden coached Faehn in the 1987 Pan-Am Games.
"It has been fun to see where she has come in her career," Marsden said. "It's like with your brother or sister when you are competing out back. We like each other, but we're going to do everything we can to beat them."
The Utes nearly pulled off an upset in Gainesville but had trouble on the balance beam while Florida finished strong on the floor.
Getting those beam issues and sending a message to the rest of the country with a good regional showing is important for the Utes, Marsden said.
"It's no secret we haven't done what this team is capable of," he said. "We have to put everything together on all four events and we're running out of time. We have to work at it this week, and if we could do that at regionals and come away with a win, it would be a great confidence builder for us and send a statement that Utah is still a contender going onto championships."
Florida won the SEC Championship with a 197.05 to edge top-ranked Alabama (196.875) for its seventh conference title overall.
Auburn, which is the third seed in Utah's regional, scored 195.575 to place fifth behind Georgia (196.825) and LSU (195.75).
Utah's region is the only one in which all teams are ranked.
"Every team here is dangerous," Marsden said. "They are good enough, especially if either or both of the top seeded teams have any problems. It's a meet where we're going to have to come to play and do a good job."
Utah has won three straight region titles while Florida has won five in a row.
Utah is the only school to qualify for every NCAA Championship.
SUU will have a tough time getting out of its region since it is competing against Stanford and Michigan, two teams with NCAA experience that are tied at No. 6 in the rankings.
The T-Birds scored a 195.8 to edge Boise State (195.7) while Utah State was third (193.675).
SUU is led by Elise Wheeler, who was named the WAC Gymnast of the Year.
April 10, at Huntsman Center
No. 4 Florida, No. 10 Utah, No. 16 Auburn, No. 19 Boise State, No. 22 Denver, No. 23 Washington