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Utah gymnastics: Region beam champ Shannon McNatt may have to sit if Kari Lee is healthy

Published April 9, 2017 11:11 pm

Utah gymnastics • McNatt had stunning win on balance beam.
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If sophomore Kari Lee's ankle heals as quickly as expected, Utah's fourth-ranked gymnastics team faces the odd situation of possibly benching a region champion at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis beginning Friday.

That is the rather odd situation the Utes are in after sophomore Shannon McNatt pulled off a stunning win at the NCAA regionals, claiming the balance beam title with a 9.9 in her debut on the event.

She is believed to be the first Utah gymnast to win a region title in her first appearance on an event.

While the Utes were thrilled with the result, particularly since her performance was key in helping Utah hold off Denver for the title, the Utes are hoping to get Lee back in the lineup for nationals.

Lee is one of the team's best on the beam, having competed every meet except regionals and scoring 9.85 or higher nine out of 11 times.

"Kari is a beamer, so Shannon will be an alternate if she can compete" Utah coach Megan Marsden said. "Shannon certainly put herself in position to prove we could count on her and when you have to compete two nights in a row it is good to know you have a lot of beamers, but Kari's earned that spot."

McNatt, whose only other contributions this year were four appearances on the vault, said she understood she might be the odd woman out.

"Obviously I want Kari to be healthy and we need her to compete for the team," she said. "But I'd be happy to get the opportunity to compete too. I have to keep training like they might need me."

McNatt, a sophomore from Houston, Texas, is also a backup on vault and the uneven bars. She hyperextended her knee at the Pac-12 Championships when she landed her vault and scored just 9.325.

Previously, McNatt had earned 9.75, 9.875 and 9.8 in the final regular season meets.

McNatt said the injury still hurts some, but hopes she can be ready for nationals, if needed.

"I definitely want to be out there competing," she said. "I know it's important to the team so I want to get back as fast as possible."

If nothing else, McNatt will at least have the satisfaction of the region beam title as her highlight to 2017. She had done well in practice to earn a spot in the lineup, but the way she competed still surprised her teammates and coaches.

"She has definitely gotten better through the season," Marsden said. "But to be thrown into the regional competition with our backs against the wall and her team needing her to rise to the occasion, she definitely took advantage of the opportunity. Moments like that are special."

Even if the region meet was her final appearance on the beam this year, McNatt said the effort gives her a lot of confidence of the future.

"It feels amazing knowing hard works pays off," she said. "It gives me the confidence that I am capable of contributing to this team and being a part of the Utah legacy. It gives you a lot of pride." —

NCAA Gymnastics Championships

Friday-Saturday, St. Louis, Mo.

Friday semifinals

Afternoon Session, 11 a.m. MDT

(Starting event listed next to team)

• No. 1 Oklahoma (bye before floor)

• No. 4 Utah (vault)

• No. 6 UCLA (bye before bars)

• No. 7 Denver (beam)

• No. 11 Washington (bars)

• No. 12 Oregon State (floor)

Evening Session, 6 p.m. MDT

• No. 2 LSU (bye before floor)

• No. 3 Florida (vault)

• No. 5 Michigan (bye before bars)

• No. 8 Alabama (floor)

• No. 9 Georgia (beam)

• No. 10 Nebraska (bars)






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