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Utah’s gymnasts are looking at Oregon State road meet as a chance to cement their postseason credentials

In a year with few road trips, Utes also looking forward to the chance to hang out and build chemistry

(Isaac Hale | Special to The Tribune) Utah’s Jaylene Gilstrap performs her floor routine during a gymnastics meet between the University of Utah and the University of California, Berkeley, held at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021.

Utah’s gymnastics team is aiming for more than just winning the Pac-12 outright when it competes at Oregon State on Friday. The Utes hope to gain a little leverage for the postseason, too.

The NCAA is using a modified formula to determine the national qualifying score, the average which determines teams’ seedings into the postseason. This year teams are counting four meets, two home and two away, in the NQS to determine seedings for the postseason.

Right now the Utes are saddled with a 196.9 earned in the season opener. Utah’s other counting scores are 197.375 or higher, so a big score at Oregon State would improve Utah’s 197.3 average.

Florida (197.944), Oklahoma (197.738) and LSU (197.55) are all ranked ahead of the Utes in the national rankings.

“We’ve been extremely consistent in our scoring, so that is the one outlier,” Utah coach Tom Farden said. “We’d like to shed that one.”

The Utes lost one of their chances for a big road score when their meet at Stanford was canceled because the Cardinal weren’t ready to compete due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“It will be good to get back on the road and have a chance to improve and hit 24 routines,” Farden said. “It’s important for us to do that to prepare for the Pac-12 Championships.”

NO. 4 UTAH AT NO. 23 OREGON STATE

When • Friday, 6 p.m. MT

TV • None

Stream • Oregon State Live Stream

Another element to the road trip to Oregon is taking advantage of the socialization opportunities road meets normally have.

The Utes use the meets to foster team bonding, an aspect that might easily be overlooked in a team’s success in an individual sport like gymnastics. Most people can understand how a quarterback befriending a receiver could translate to them playing well together, but the same closeness benefits gymnasts, too, Farden said.

“To me it can be the difference maker in meets,” he said. “When you are being really pushed, that chemistry is where the magic can happen. The other night our team was being pushed around by Cal; they were on their ‘A’ game and our athletes didn’t back down.”

Utah’s only jaunts out of state this year will be trips to Arizona State, Oklahoma and Oregon State. The Best of Utah season opener counts as a road meet but really didn’t feel like one since it was held at the Maverik Center, the same arena that will host the Pac-12 Championships and the NCAA regional.

That means Utah’s next true road trip would be the NCAA Championships April 16-17 in Fort Worth, Texas, if they advance.

The schedule is convenient and inconvenient at the same time, Farden acknowledged.

“This year, staying at home as much as possible is a blessing in disguise with COVID,” Farden said. “We’ve been able to avoid things like travel and eating from restaurants where the possibility of exposure is more.”

In pre-virus times, the Utes often scheduled bonding times such as team dinners, outings, etc., on their road trips.

This year they’ve managed a couple things, such as a miniature golf tournament and a picnic on the Arizona State trip.

Freshman Jaylene Gilstrap said the emphasis on team aspect is different than what she was accustomed to before joining the Utes.

“I was the only elite in my gym, so it was very normal for me to travel alone a lot,” she said. “I’d never had the team travel experience.”

The Utes hope this road trip helps build some of that trust and team chemistry in addition to getting the win.

“We are trying to position ourselves to be in the best position possible for the postseason,” Farden said.

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