Utah gymnastics coach Tom Farden plans his team’s schedule each year with the goal of giving the Utes experience against national-caliber teams.
Since schedules are made years in advance, his predictions of who will be good when are just that, predictions. This year though he was spot on. The Utes are in the NCAA Championships early session with Oklahoma, Minnesota and Alabama, three teams the Utes have faced and beaten this year.
“The familiarity with those teams is a big advantage,” Farden said. “We want to schedule teams of this caliber but seeing them all in the same year is good.”
The top two teams from Utah’s session, which takes place at 11 a.m. MDT on April 14 in Fort Worth, Texas, advance to the finals on April 16.
The later session will consist of Michigan, Missouri, Florida and Auburn.
Michigan won the championship last year while Oklahoma has won four national titles and finished second last year. The Utes were third.
The Utes are the only team that has qualified for all 46 national championships, but they haven’t won a national title since 1995.
Farden likes his team’s position after a strong showing in the regional championships where their 198.2 was the third-highest regional score posted, behind Florida’s 198.775 and Oklahoma’s 198.25. Alabama was the only other team to break the 198 mark with a 198.175.
“I feel like we are coming together as a team and really performing well right now,” he said.
Adding to Farden’s confidence is Utah’s rotation of starting on the floor, the same rotation the Utes had at the regional championships.
“We have done that rotation twice and have shown we can hit if we end on beam,” he said. “I don’t mind that rotation at all.”
Key for the Utes going forward will be Abby Paulson’s recovery from a back injury. She competed only on the floor in the regional final, scoring a 9.9.
“She was cleared, but we worried about her power,” Farden said. “We held her out for that, but it was really good to have her in on Saturday. We have to get her healthy.”
How to watch the NCAA Gymnastics Championships
Fort Worth, Texas
TV: ESPN 2
Session 1, 11 a.m. MDT: Oklahoma (vault), Alabama (uneven bars), Minnesota (balance beam), Utah (floor)
Session 2, 4 p.m. MDT: Florida (vault), Missouri (uneven bars), Auburn (balance beam), Michigan (floor)
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