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Alexia Burch’s move to balance beam has helped steady Utah’s gymnastics lineup

Senior was already a solid contributor on bars and vault; her addition to the beam lineup helps shore that rotation up

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) THe Alexia Burch celebrates her performance on the balance beam, in PAC-12 gymnastics action between the UCLA Bruins and the University of Utah, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019.

When Utah’s gymnastics team needed to make a change to the balance beam lineup, it’s no surprise the Utes turned to senior Alexia Burch.

Burch has had an extremely strong season for the Utes thus far, competing in three events, and excels on the balance beam.

In the last three meets Burch has led off on beam for the Utes, scoring two 9.85s and a 9.75

The move was made to relieve fellow senior Emilie LeBlanc, who was struggling in the role.

As a senior, Burch said she knew she had to be prepared for any circumstance.

“For me it wasn’t really an adjustment other than how quickly I had to get ready,” she said of the time between event rotations.

Utah coach Tom Farden relies on beam coach Carly Dockendorf to make the beam decisions, but knew Burch could handle the role just by watching her.

“Everybody can see the advancement of Lexi,” Farden said. “You can see her confidence level has moved up and she is making huge impacts and has become such an important part of that event.”

Beam has been Burch’s most notable contribution thanks to the lineup change, but she is having a good season elsewhere, too. She has scored lower than 9.8 on the uneven bars just once this year and out of the seven times she has competed on the vault, she has scored higher than 9.9 four times, including two 9.975s.

“She has been flirting with that 10,” Farden said.

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Burch, from Sparks, Nev., came to the Utes with some good credentials, winning the 2015 junior Olympic all-around and floor title, but she has continued to improve her gymnastics at Utah.

As a freshman she was a role player on the balance beam and as a sophomore she competed on the vault and beam regularly and filled in on floor. As a junior she was a first-team All-Pac-12 Conference gymnast on vault and hit 19-for-19 routines.

This season arguably is her best, considering her consistent high scores.

“When we were recruiting her, we were amazed as a staff at her attention to details,” Farden said. “She parlayed that into amazing execution. She has improved everything again. For her to do that over the four years is extremely rare.”

Having her step into the beam leadoff role could be her biggest contribution yet, considering the importance of the spot since it is up to her to set the tone for the rotation.

While others might keep track of the score, Burch says she benefits from not paying attention. That helps with handling pressure situations.

“I just go up on the beam and try to do my thing,” she said. “Sometimes after I see the score and think, ‘Dang, that is closer than my brain was thinking.’”

Better, it seems, to let the body do the thinking.

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