The NCAA Regional Gymnastics Championships might be a national competition, but for the Utah Utes, familiarity is the theme.
The fourth-ranked Utes will compete against Pac-12 foes California and Stanford, Auburn, Brigham Young and Southern Utah when they host the NCAA Regionals April 7 in the Huntsman Center, beginning at 4 p.m.
The Utes lost to Cal in the regular season then beat the Bears, along with Stanford, in the Pac-12 Championships. Utah also has a win over the Cougars and Auburn is coached by former Utah assistant Jeff Graba.
“We’ve seen California more than once this year and they beat us so we certainly know that program inside and out,” Utah coach Megan Marsden said. “They are a program that is improving and they want to make a statement. I don’t know Auburn’s personnel, but we know what their head coach can do.”
Graba was an assistant at Utah from 2006-2010. The Tigers finished eighth at the SEC Championships Saturday, scoring 195.65.
“It’s exciting to have some Utah people back in the Huntsman Center because our fans are so knowledgeable,” Marsden said. “It will be fun to have them here and for our people to see them. We know they come from a competitive conference.”
April 7 at the following locations. Regional qualifying scores in parenthesis:
Salt Lake City • Utah (197.54), California (196.89), Auburn (196.595), BYU (196.43), Stanford (196.08), SUU (195.915)
Minneapolis • Oklahoma (198.12), Kentucky (196.8), Denver (196.785), Minnesota (196.25), Iowa State (196.045), Iowa (195.775)
University Park, Pa. • Florida (197.39), Washington (196.96), Arizona State(196.545), West Virginia (196.07), Penn State (195.985), New Hampshire(195.94)
Raleigh, N.C. • LSU (197.89), Nebraska (196.815), Oregon State (196.78),George Washington (196.46), N.C. State (196.44), Maryland (195.93)
Tuscaloosa, Ala. • Alabama (197.165), Michigan (197.16), Georgia (196.515),Missouri (196.39), Illinois (196.265), Central Michigan (195.75)
Columbus, Ohio • UCLA (197.84), Arkansas (196.82), Boise State (196.745), OhioState (196.215), Pittsburgh (195.87), Kent State (195.855)
The Utes have qualified for all 42 national championships and finished fifth at the 2017 NCAA Championships.
Utah finished second to UCLA at the Pac-12 Championships on Saturday, but the Utes will be ready for regionals, sophomore MyKayla Skinner said. “It will be good to be back in the Huntsman Center again,” Skinner said. “We need to go in there and hit 24 for 24 routines. We need to be strong and confident.”
Marsden said it was disappointing to finish second in the Pac-12 Championships, but not a surprise given the talent the Bruins have.
“We thought at the beginning of the year if both teams did their thing we might take turns on winning and that has held true so far,” she said.“I still feel we are evenly matched, but we didn’t do the job we neededt o do and build the lineups. Having two falls through the course of the evening was costly.”
The falls came from some of Utah’s inexperienced athletes, with sophomore Kim Tessen falling from the uneven bars and freshman Alexia Burch falling from the balance beam. Rather than focus on the negatives, Marsden preferred to focus on the positive, pointing out the Utes handled the mistakes well and finished with a strong performance on the vault.
“We didn’t let things spiral out of control,” she said. “Others in the session were on our tails and we could have let things go. If we had finished third or fourth, it would be a much different taste in my mouth but we kept things going down the stretch.”
Marsden said the Utes will take it light this week in training, then ramp things up early next week. “We have four all-arounders so we want to get them some rest and make sure they are sharp and strong and ready to go,” she said.