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Utes don't sweat ranking

Published January 10, 2006 1:28 am

College Gymnastics Notes
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Let's see, last year the Utes took over the No. 1 national ranking after opening the season with a win over then-top-ranked UCLA. So based on its 194.875-193.85, season-opening victory over the No. 3 Bruins on Saturday, Utah should at least hold its No. 2 spot, right?

Not quite. The rankings during the first several weeks are based only on high scores, until the regional qualifying score formula kicks into play. That formula is an average of home and away meets with high and low scores disregarded.

So, based on the high scores, the new No. 1 team is Florida, which scored a nation-best 195.9 in its season opener. Georgia slips a spot to No. 2, Stanford is third, the Utes fall to fourth and UCLA tumbles to a tie for ninth. Washington, Utah's opponent this week, is No. 18.

Utah coach Greg Marsden isn't worried about the rankings, especially after he watched film of the Utes' win at UCLA.

"I felt better after viewing it than I did after the meet," he said. "Other than our first two routines [falls on the uneven bars], I was really pleased with our effort."

In particular, Marsden was happy with the debuts of Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim, and with veterans Gritt Hofmann and Gabi Onodi.

"Gabi did a great job leading us off on floor and beam," he said. "Her scores were a little low [9.675s], but it was probably because of where she was in the lineup. She did a really nice job."

Around the nation

Defending champion Georgia opened the season by winning the Cancun Classic, scoring a 195.7. Ninth-ranked Stanford was second with a 194.95, and Georgia coach Suzanne Yoculan predicted the Pac-10 school would finish in the top three at nationals. Stanford was tabbed to be one of the top teams in 2005, but it struggled because of injuries and didn't qualify for the NCAA Championships. . . . The Super Six meet featuring Alabama, LSU, Nebraska, Iowa State, Auburn and Missouri will air on ESPN2 on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Alabama won the meet with a 194.25 followed by Nebraska with a 194.1.

Nebraska update

Don't read much into Nebraska's season-opening score of 194.1 at the Super Six. As good as it was, Nebraska may get a lot better. Cornhuskers coach Dan Kendig predicted a big difference between his team's first and second meets before the opener.

"We've got a lot of talent on each event; it's the seven, eight and nine spots we're working on," he said. "We may have to make some sacrifices with our first couple of meets. We have a lot of work to do."

Nebraska comes to Salt Lake for Utah's season opener on Jan. 20. The Huskers handed Utah its first loss last year, winning 196.65-196.6 in Lincoln.

Where are the fans?

UCLA has won five national titles since 1997, but the success in the gym hasn't necessarily translated into large crowds like it has at other places such as Utah, Alabama and Georgia.

The third-ranked Bruins drew just 2,732 fans for their home opener against second-ranked Utah. UCLA averaged 2,550 fans last year to rank ninth among the sport's attendance leaders. Utah led the category by drawing 11,300 fans on average.

UCLA coach Val Kondos spends almost as much time marketing her team through speaking engagements and appearances as she does coaching, but said it's hard to draw fans away from Los Angeles' weather. The day of the Utah meet was sunny and warm.

"I thought winning national championships would do it," she said. "It depends on if it's raining or not. If it's drizzling, we'll get a lot of people. If it's raining, no one comes because L.A. wasn't built for heavy rainstorms and it floods. Today, I was at the beach at Malibu this morning and it was stunning. I wouldn't leave the beach to come back."

Bad girls and boys

Normally, gymnasts cause their schools few problems, but this year has started off with a few getting caught doing things they shouldn't have been doing.

Auburn's Tiffany Robinson and Rachael Tarantino were kicked off the team for breaking team rules, and Georgia's Kelsey Ericksen was suspended for two meets for breaking team rules.

Not even the coaches can stay out of trouble. Oklahoma coach Steve Nunno and his staff have been suspended from coaching for one week as punishment for committing NCAA violations. Nunno's salary was also frozen for a year.

lwodraska@sltrib.com