One characteristic that Utah gymnastics coach Megan Marsden likes about her team is the way the gymnasts have pulled together and formed a strong bond.
Apparently that bond is helping the Utes through one of their more frustrating points this season.
The Utes spent the off week after their surprising loss at Cal by focusing on all the little elements that let them down in that defeat. The encouraging aspect, in Marsden’s eyes, is that the motivation to do so came from within the team, not the coaches.
“It became more of a team thing,” she said. “There is a lot of group leadership and the girls got together and worked on stick drills and created more pressure situations like they see in a meet. And that was exciting to see, to watch the group take that on after the loss.”
The fourth-ranked Utes, who compete at No. 7 Michigan on Saturday, have had trouble sticking their landings in recent meets and haven’t hit 24 for 24 routines in the last four outings, so cleaning up those errors is key, especially since the Utes have just two regular-season competitions left. The Utes host Georgia on March 16 in the regular-season finale.
“We’ve had a good week of training,” Marsden said. “We had some time to regroup, and the girls had some goals and a mission within themselves. It didn’t take Tom [Farden] and I to get that done.”
Marsden understands fans might be a bit worried that standout MyKayla Skinner might not be 100 percent after sitting out two events in the loss to Cal because of a sore ankle, but Marsden said the sophomore is fine and ready to go in the all-around against Michigan.
“In the big picture, it isn’t all bad to have her sit out a bit and get some rest,” Marsden said. “She is someone who isn’t going to sit out ever if she has the choice, but we wanted to give her a break. She could have gone if we had asked her to without any problem.”
After several years of suffering at least one season-ending injury, the Utes have remained relatively healthy this year, something Marsden isn’t taking for granted. She said even with planning and trying to be smart about practice times, there isn’t much that can be done to protect gymnasts from injuries; some are just luck.
“You try to think through practices and how many hard landings you have, but as coaches there really is only so much you can do,” she said.
The Red Rocks are launching a campaign to upgrade their training facility, the Dumke Gymnastics Center. The center, which opened in 1999, will have a second-story addition, an expanded team locker room, lounge and balcony as well as locker rooms for the coaches.
Fundraising efforts for the project are being led by co-coaches Farden and Marsden as well as several season-ticket holders. The goal is to raise $3 million with construction planned for 2020.
“People in our community are passionate about Utah gymnastics, and we hope to tap into that passion,” Marsden said. “Our huge crowds help us not only in recruiting but in the great experience our gymnasts have throughout their careers. We hope our fans will go the next step and help us expand the Dumke Center.”
Donors who give up to $500 will have their names etched on the exterior pillars while donations of $10,000 and more will secure the donor name on a Perfect 10.0 wall on the building’s exterior.
In the rankings
There were few changes in the rankings as Oklahoma (197.98), LSU (197.715), UCLA (197.65), Utah (197.415) and Florida (197.325) hold the top five spots. Brigham Young is No. 21 (196.04) and Southern Utah (195.66) is just outside the top 25 at No. 29. Utah State is No. 38 (195.24), just outside the cut of 36 teams that make the regionals.
The Utes are third in the vault (49.395), sixth on the bars (49.295), eighth on the beam (49.275) and third on the floor (49.485). Skinner is No. 5 in the all-around (39.6), fourth in the vault (9.925) and tied with MaKenna Merrell-Giles for sixth on the floor (9.93). Merrill-Giles is No. 7 in the all-around (39.535).
Around the state
BYU hosts Penn State, Texas Woman’s University and Utah State on Friday. The Cougars defeated USU 196.2-196.1 on Friday in Logan. SUU has a week off after its Monday meet at Denver.
TOP 25 RANKINGS
Team • RQS
1. Oklahoma • 197.98
2. LSU • 197.715
3. UCLA • 197.65
4. Utah • 197.415
5. Florida • 197.325
6. Alabama • 197.005
7. Michigan • 196.93
8. Kentucky • 196.715
9. Washington • 196.67
10. Arkansas • 196.66
11. Oregon State • 196.605
12. Arizona State • 196.51
13. Nebraska • 196.455
14. Boise State • 196.43
15. Denver • 196.36
16. Auburn • 196.34
17. Georgia • 196.31
18. George Washington • 196.285
19. Missouri • 196.24
20. California • 196.235
21. BYU • 196.04
22. Minnesota • 196.01
23. Ohio State • 195.925
24. N.C. State • 195.765
25. Iowa State • 195.745