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Utah looking to avoid 3rd straight loss

Published March 4, 2005 1:41 am

Gymnastics

Quad meet set for tonight: Utes on the brink of historical moment they would rather not achieve

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Tonight

What: No. 6 Florida, Stanford, Cal at No. 3 Utah, 7 p.m.

Utah: Sophomore Nicolle Ford has battled the flu this week, but should be able to compete. . . . Fans who purchase a gymnastics ticket can redeem it before tonight's meet for a free ticket to Saturday's men's basketball game between Utah and San Diego State.

Opponents: Florida's Breanne King is ranked 14th in the all-around, averaging 39.209. . . . Greg Marsden coach assisted Florida coach Rhonda Faehn in the 1987 Pan Am Games and World Championships.

Also: No. 14 BYU at Boise State, 7 p.m. Utah's gymnastics team is celebrating the program's 30th anniversary this year, a period in which the Utes have won 10 national titles and 22 event national titles.

One thing the Utes haven't done is lose three meets in a row.

Utah, which carried the nation's top ranking for much of the season, finds itself in danger of reaching such an unwanted landmark tonight. The Utes play host to a quad meet with No. 6 Florida, Stanford and California.

Despite the losses at Nebraska and Georgia, Utah coach Greg Marsden and his team are far from panicking. Utah has only lost two straight meets once, in 2003.

"As a team, we actually gained some confidence on the road, because we did a good job," he said. "The only thing we didn't resolve is our start on bars. I'd like us to start off strong on that event."

Because it is at home, Utah won't be able to address that tonight, opening on the vault instead. What it can face, though, is that losing streak, one that won't be so easy to break.

Singled out as an up-and-coming team at the beginning of the year, Florida has done nothing to disappoint, beating Alabama, Georgia and Nebraska. Twice it has scored 196.925 or better.

Stanford was so beaten up at the start of the season, it begged out of its first meet. Since then, the Cardinal have been improving, and they had two-time defending champ UCLA in a tight meet before suffering some falls and losing 196.3-194.625.

"They are a team that seems ready to explode," Marsden said. "They've gotten better, and it always seems teams bring their best against us. We knew that Florida was going to be a good team. It used to be a two-horse race in the SEC between Alabama and Georgia, but not anymore with Florida and LSU having good years."

Tonight's unusual format, with four teams competing at once, will give all the teams a preview of what to expect at regionals and nationals. Utah will play host to a regional championship April 8, and the floor will be set up tonight just like it will for that meet.

"It will be a good opportunity for us to get used to the format," Marsden said. "Most gymnasts like it better, because with four things going on at once, it's not 'all eyes on you.' "