Utes prepared for lower scoring from judges
It has been several years since top-ranked women's gymnastics teams scored in the 195 range and thought it was a good meet.
But that is exactly what is going on around the country this year. Judges are getting stingy with the big scores and are being more harsh in deductions for small mistakes, such as hops on the landings.
The first week, the only meet where scores were noticeably were lower was the Super Six Challenge. Carole Ide, President of the National Association of Women's Gymnastics Judges, sent out a letter last week reminding judges they needed to be more consistent in their assessments and follow the code of deductions.
Her letter was heeded, as no team scored above a 196 last week. In addition to being more strict in their assessments, judges are now assigned by Ide in a random manner, in the hopes it will cut down on favoritism by judges, a problem in the past.
"This is something we've all talked about seriously the last three years," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "We wanted to standardize the judging. It's not perfect, but it has had an impact. Things can change in the course of a season, but hopefully it will help bring things back in line."
Perhaps most notable is that only two 10s have been handed out this season, to Washington's Carly Dockendorf on the floor and Oklahoma's Erin LaBarr on the uneven bars.
"No one is in favor of taking away the big scores, but we want to reserve them for spectacular performances," Marsden said. "Now we're seeing good routines that aren't going higher than 9.6 if they have breaks and little stuff wrong."
Utah remained No. 1 in the national poll, but joining the top 10 is Brigham Young, at No. 9. Utah State is No. 24. Individually, Utah's Annabeth Eberle and Ashley Postell remain tied at No. 1 in the all-around and Nicolle Ford is tied for first with UCLA's Kate Richardson on the balance beam. Rachel Tidd is second on the uneven bars and vault.
Utah State's Jessica Parenti was all set for a big season after missing last year with a wrist injury.
Now, she is dealing with the reality that she might not get to compete again this year, too.
Parenti found out just hours before Friday's meet against Utah that she has mononucleosis.
Parenti, a sophomore, hasn't been feeling well for several weeks. Tests for mononucleosis came back negative last Monday, but she was tested again later in the week and received the bad news at the team's pregame meal.
She will be out at least six weeks.
"It's very frustrating," Parenti said. "I was looking forward to competing, and now I just have to rest. That is hard."
No time for rest
Southern Utah University is back in action tonight, facing Denver in Cedar City. SUU lost to BYU on Friday, 195.725-192.575. Denver is ranked No. 14 in the latest poll and is led by Heather Huffaker, ranked No. 8 in the all-around and first on the vault.
Marsden said Postell should be ready to compete in the all-around Friday when the Utes face No. 13 Oregon State. Postell only vaulted against Utah State, getting a 9.9, because of a cold. Utah's Natalie Nicoloff, who sat out with a cold, is also expected back in the beam lineup.
The scuttle on the national scene is Stanford's surprising withdrawal from Friday's meet against California, Brown and UC Davis, hosted by Cal.
Stanford withdrew Thursday, but originally gave no explanation in the press release.
On Friday, in a notice posted on the school's Web site, Stanford coach Kristen Smyth said she made the decision because several of her gymnasts are injured, but the unprecedented action of backing out of the meet has coaches around the country wondering if the Cardinal are dealing with bigger and more troubling issues.
Stanford is scheduled to compete at Washington on Friday.
No. Team High Avg.
1. Utah 197.675 196.675
2. UCLA 197.300 195.900
3. Michigan 196.025 195.962
4. Alabama 195.975 194.925
5. Oklahoma 195.900 194.750
6. Georgia 195.800 195.325
7. Arizona State 195.700 194.225
8. LSU 195.625 194.675
9. BYU 195.575 195.125
10. Florida 195.550 195.000
11. Michigan State 195.475 193.725
12. Auburn 195.325 194.450
13. Oregon State 195.200 194.037
14. Denver 195.100 194.487
15. Iowa State 194.925 194.337
15. Arkansas 194.925 194.587
17. Kentucky 194.850 194.212
18. Washington 194.625 193.837
19. Nebraska 194.200 194.200
20. Penn State 194.125 193.562
21. C. Michigan 194.050 193.200
22. Maryland 193.975 192.762
23. Minnesota 193.925 193.862
24. Utah State 193.850 192.850
25. Illinois 193.825 193.512
Tonight - Denver at SUU, 7 p.m.
Friday - Utah at Oregon State,
8 p.m. MST
Saturday - BYU at New Hampshire,
5 p.m. MST