Counting on a deep lineup
Not long ago, Annabeth Eberle played the role of clutch performer when the Utah gymnastics team needed a big finishing routine.
Then it was Ashley Postell's turn. Last year it was seniors Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim who normally were the last to perform.
As the 2010 season begins Saturday the duty goes to ... Anyone? Anyone?
This season the Utes, picked No. 2 in the preseason poll, boast one of their most experienced rosters, with four seniors and three juniors.
But among them they don't have that superstar gymnast, the one who can automatically be penciled in as the closer on every event.
However, lacking such a gymnast isn't such a bad thing in the eyes of coach Greg Marsden, who believes he has plenty of talent to compete for the national title.
The Utes finished third in 2009 following three straight second-place showings. Georgia, which has won the last five titles, was picked No. 1 again even though it has a new coach in Jay Clark, the former assistant who took over when Suzanne Yoculan retired.
"I do think we can contend if everybody is on board," Marsden said. "We're not going to be a team that has a big star that carries the team, or one or two people. We need everybody doing their part."
Even so, Marsden predicts he'll lean on his senior class to carry much of the load while the three freshmen adjust to collegiate gymnastics.
Six-time All-American Daria Bijak has to be the leader on the floor, even if she isn't necessarily the last in the lineups, Marsden said.
"She has the most accolades this year, but Jamie [Deetscreek] hit every routine last year at some point and she has to be big for us too. Beth [Rizzo] is back and Annie [DiLuzio] too. We have to depend on people who have been here and know what to expect year after year."
Marsden said he thought the Utes' preseason ranking, determined by the coaches, was a "little generous," however he and his team feel good about their preseason.
There have been some typical setbacks. Junior Jacquelyn Johnson had appendicitis, freshman Katelyn Mohr has stress fractures in her back and Rizzo has had trouble with kidney stones.
The team also had a bout of swine flu.
None of the issues were serious enough to make the Utes feel behind in their training as they prepare for the season opener today against the No. 5 Bruins.
"We have so many people fighting for spots in the lineup," Deetscreek said. "We've been pushing each other and working hard and we know we have a lot of potential with a lot of experience from last year."
For now, Marsden doesn't see one event stronger or weaker than the others, believing he has six or seven strong gymnasts from which to choose when he makes his lineups.
Seeing how they all fit together will be the Utes' primary focus in the first few meets, particularly when it comes to deciding who will anchor what event.
"We have to learn in the course of the season and determine who is going to be in those roles," he said. "We have to have the right people and in the right places in the lineup and give them an opportunity to be comfortable in those places."
|Cortni Beers||So.||Contributer on bars and beam, competed at UCLA in 2009|
|Daria Bijak||Sr.||Veteran had a strong summer and is a leader|
|Jamie Deetscreek||Sr.||Owns school record of most routines without a fall (64)|
|Annie DiLuzio||Sr.||2009 NCAA regional co-champ on floor and runner-up on vault|
|Jacquelyn Johnson||Jr.||Expected to contribute more later in season|
|Fumina Kobayashi||Fr.||Joined team after graduating early from Brighton H.S.|
|Gael Mackie||Jr.||Should be a regular in the all-around lineup|
|Stephanie McAllister||So.||Bars and floor her strength, went 26-of-27 in 2009|
|Katelyn Mohr||Fr.||Has stress fractures in her back but still competes|
|Beth Rizzo||Sr.||Missed 2009 season after ankle surgery|
|Kyndal Robarts||Jr.||Expected to contribute in all-around this season|
|Meg Whitney||Fr.||Could debut on beam and floor at UCLA|
Head coaches » Greg Marsden, 35th year, Megan Marsden (first year as co-head coach)
2009 record » 22-5-1
Letterwinners returning » 9
Today » at UCLA, 5 p.m.
Jan. 15 » Iowa State, 7 p.m.
Jan. 22 » Georgia, 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 » at Washington, 8 p.m.
Feb. 5 » at Arizona State, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 12 » Utah State, 7 p.m.
Feb. 19 » at Michigan, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 26 » at BYU, 7 p.m.
March 5 » Nebraska, 7 p.m.
March 12 » Oregon State, Penn State, SUU, 7 p.m.
March 19 » at Florida, 5 p.m.
March 26 » BYU, 7 p.m.
April 10 » NCAA Regionals (SLC), 6 p.m.
April 22-24 » NCAA Championships (at Florida)
1. Georgia 739
2. Utah 718
3. Alabama 680
4. Florida 676
5. UCLA 632
6. LSU 576
7. Stanford 563
8. Arkansas 537
9. Oklahoma 516
10. Oregon State 503
Today, 5 p.m.
About the meet » The Utes have won their last five season openers against the Bruins and lead the series 42-13-1 overall and 14-12-1 since 1995.