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Provo • Utah's gymnastics team refers to the balance beam as a "head event," one that causes problems for the Utes when they think about the event too much. The key, apparently, is getting the troublesome apparatus out of the way before they can dwell on what bad things could happen on the 4-inch-wide piece of equipment.
The Utes used one of their best efforts on the balance beam to propel them past BYU and North Carolina State in a tri-meet at the Marriott Center.
The Utes notched a 197.125 for their highest regular-season road score since winning in Provo in 2009. BYU finished second with a 195.5, and N.C. State had a 194.675.
The Utes' score of 49.05 on the beam was the best since they notched a 49.325 in a home quad meet in January.
Friday's effort came with the Utes starting on the event while BYU started on vault and N.C. State started on the uneven bars.
If the eighth-ranked Utes were saddled with the rotation to perhaps put the pressure on them early, it backfired.
"Apparently we do a lot better finishing on bars than starting on it," joked Utah coach Greg Marsden. "I was really proud of the first three up on balance beam. We took a big step forward there."
BYU was just behind the Utes after the Cougars posted a 49.0 on the vault, but instead of making for a close meet, the gap widened throughout the night as Utah's confidence grew. The Utes followed up the beam effort with a 49.325 on the floor, their third-best score of the night. Anchor Becky Tutka had a 9.925 and Lia Del Priore, who scored her first 10.0 a week ago, had a 9.9.
BYU, which hasn't beaten Utah since 1998, simply couldn't keep up with the Utes. N.C. State was even farther behind, leaving the Utes to cruise to the win.
It was just the kind of victory the Utes needed on the road to help their regional qualifying score and their confidence.
Utah travels to hostile SEC country to take on Georgia next week and hosts Florida in the season finale on March 16.
"This is what we needed," sophomore Georgia Dabritz said. "We've been struggling some on the road, and this is going to give us a lot of confidence for next week."
The only glitch for the Utes on Friday came when Dabritz fell off the balance beam. But as she has done all season, junior Mary Beth Lofgren delivered in the anchor spot, scoring a 9.875 to seal the solid score for the Utes.
Utah ended the night on the uneven bars, posting a 49.275, led by Dabritz's 9.9.
"It was a great score on the road," Dabritz said. "We had seven good bars scores, and that is where we have struggled. After everyone else hit, I could just go out there feeling confident and that is what happens."
O IN SHORT • Utah extends its winning streak against the Cougars to 31.
KEY MOMENT • Mary Beth Lofgren scores a 9.875 to end the beam rotation for the Utes after teammate Georgia Dabritz fell.
KEY STAT • The Utes had their second-best effort of the year on balance beam.
Vault • Tory Wilson (Utah) 9.95
Uneven bars • Georgia Dabritz (Utah) 9.9
Balance beam • Wilson and Mary Beth Lofgren (Utah) 9.875
Floor • Becky Tutka (Utah) 9.925
All-around • Wilson 39.45