Ever since preseason workouts started, Utah's second-ranked gymnastics team has had a countdown chart in its locker room leading up to the season opener against fourth-ranked UCLA on Friday.
Finally, that chart is down to single digits, and just in time, too. The Utes believe their preseason work has gone well enough to put them ahead of schedule, but they need more than just practice to know for sure.
"We need a meet to know what we need to work on and find out where we are as a team," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "There isn't much more we could do without one."
The one thing the Utes do know is they are without the services of Kyndal Robarts, a sophomore who is out indefinitely after tearing the labrum in her right shoulder practicing on the uneven bars just before the Christmas break.
The Utes hope she can rehabilitate her shoulder well enough to compete on vault and maybe floor, but she definitely won't compete on bars. If the shoulder doesn't heal, she must have surgery, which would sideline her for the season because of the long recovery time.
Robarts emerged as one of Utah's top freshmen last year, earning All-American honors on the vault and hitting 28 of 29 routines.
While Marsden called the injury "devastating," because Robarts was such a strong performer in 2008, everyone else is in good shape.
The Utes have two seniors in Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim, but the majority of the scores will come from underclassmen who have little experience. Expected to contribute immediately are freshmen Cortni Beers and Stephanie McAllister.
"I'll have a much better feel for where we are competitively three or four meets into the season," he said. "It's a matter of getting people into the right positions and getting them comfortable with their roles and seeing what they do."
The Utes will face some of their toughest competition while learning those roles. After opening against the Bruins, Utah travels to No. 1 Georgia, hosts Washington on Jan. 23 and travels to No. 9 Oregon State on Jan. 30.
Kim said the team is looking forward to going up against many of the teams expected to compete for the NCAA title early in the season.
"The coaches have always taught us each meet against great competition is great preparation for the postseason," she said. "We're are so excited to be out there."
Friday » UCLA, 7 p.m.
Jan. 19 » Georgia, 2 p.m.
Jan. 23 » Washington, 7 p.m.
Jan. 30 » at Oregon State, 8 p.m.
Feb. 6 » BYU, SUU, Texas Woman's University, 7 p.m.
Feb. 9 » at Utah State, 7 p.m.
Feb. 13 » at Nebraska, 6 p.m.
Feb. 20 » Michigan, 7 p.m.
March 6 » Arizona State, 7 p.m.
March 13 » Florida, 7 p.m.
March 20 » at BYU, 7 p.m.
Tickets for the Utes' season opener this Friday vs. UCLA at the Huntsman Center are available online at UtahUtes.com, the Rice-Eccles Stadium box office and by calling 801-581-UTIX.