Utah’s gymnastics team can’t erase their lone loss this year, but they sure could get a little revenge at the NCAA Championships.
The fifth-ranked Utes are seeded into the NCAA’s second session for April 16 in Fort Worth, where they will face top-ranked Oklahoma, fourth-ranked LSU and seventh-ranked Alabama.
The earlier session pits second-ranked Michigan, No. 3 Florida, No. 6 Cal and No. 8 Minnesota. The top two teams from each session advance to the Saturday finals.
The Utes, who are coming off a regional win over LSU, lost to Oklahoma 197.025-196.55 in the second meet of the season.
While disappointing, that meet also marked a turning point for the Utes as they have won their last nine meets and scored above 197 in the process.
NCAA GYMNASTICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Fort Worth, Texas
When • Friday, April 16
(All times MT, rankings and national qualifying scores noted with teams)
Session 1, 11 a.m.: No. 2 Michigan (395.9), No. 3 Florida (395.644), No. 6 California (395.363), No. 8 Minnesota (394.856)
Session 2, 4 p.m.: No. 1 Oklahoma (396.119), No. 4 LSU (395.563), No. 5 Utah (395.481), No. 7 Alabama (395.1113)
Top two teams from each session advance to Saturday’s finals at 1:30 p.m., which will be televised by ABC
Meeting the Sooners again in the NCAA semifinals is a great opportunity, Utah coach Tom Farden acknowledged, but it is still a difficult challenge, particularly with LSU in the mix as well. The Tigers made several mistakes in their regional appearance, miscues they can’t be expected to make again.
“The point of setting up meets with teams like Oklahoma and LSU is to get familiarity with their abilities,” Farden said. “But Oklahoma is still the defending national champion and we can’t forget that. They know what to do in these situations.”
Farden hopes the Utes know as well, based on the way his team has responded to difficult situations this year. Outside of that early matchup at Oklahoma, the Utes have been able to lift their gymnastics when needed to do so in pressure situations.
Saturday’s regional was a perfect example when the Utes started on bars, their weakest event, and opened with a 49.475 with four gymnasts tying their career highs.
The Utes will need a similar performance to advance to the finals.
“That side of the bracket is tough but we are at the point where we are just grateful for the opportunity to have a chance to compete,” Farden said. “Our whole thing right now is getting to the finals.”
The Utes will start on balance beam, their best event. That could be a disadvantage since scores are often a little tighter in the first rotation, but Farden prefers to think his team will set the standard on beam, and hopefully the meet.
“We are a confident beam team and if we can set the tone, the rest of the teams better have routines as good as ours, provided we hit,” he said.