U. gymnastics: Unique floor routine helps Mackie stand out

Music » U. gymnast chooses music that emphasizes her dance skills.
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Gael Mackie knew she was taking a risk when she chose music from Alicia Keys' recent CD as her floor music. Rather than going for the catchy, dancey tunes so many collegiate gymnasts use, her music is quieter, more classical. The song gradually builds into a slow beat as Mackie works her way through the routine, emphasizing her dance skills that have hints of her past ballet experience as well as her tumbling skills.

"I've done a lot of routines to fast music and I was looking for something a little more dramatic this year," Mackie said. "As soon as I heard the music, I wanted it and I knew I could dance to it."

If Mackie didn't have the artistry to pull off the routine, it would come across as a big, boring flop. Instead, Mackie makes the routine work so well it is quickly becoming a favorite. Mackie first performed the routine in exhibition before breaking into the lineup at Utah State, where she scored a 9.8 for her efforts. She fell at Nebraska, but coach Greg Marsden expects more 9.8s than mistakes in the future from the Canadian.

"There are a lot of gymnasts who couldn't pull off what she is doing," he said. "It takes a very different type of pattern and skill set to do it. It's really much more difficult."

Of all the events, the floor routine is the one area gymnasts can show a bit of personality. They work several days in the preseason with choreographers of their choice to form their routines, built around three required tumbling passes.

"We try to have different looks and variety," Marsden said. "Some teams, it looks like there is a template they use and they just fit the girls into that template. We'd like to believe with ours they are all very different."

Once she had the music, Mackie said it took her less than an hour to come up with the routine and another two days to learn it.

She was aided in the process by former Utah gymnast Nicolle Ford, who also helped Nina Kim and Jacquelyn Johnson create their routines.

"She and I have similar dancing styles and she was able to help me add some things in," Mackie said. "I've always liked putting a lot into my choreography even though you don't really get points for it."

Often times the emphasis is on the tumbling and leaps that are required in routines, although judges can award gymnasts for artistry and overall composition. Mackie has plenty of difficulty in her routine, with both the first and last tumbling passes ending in 'D' moves, the second-to-most difficult rated.

However, she hopes she can earn as much credit for the composition of the routine as the tumbling.

"I've always been talked about for my dancing," she said.


No. 15 Michigan at No. 1 Utah

At the Huntsman Center

Start » 7 p.m.

Live stats » www.utahutes.com

TV » Sunday, noon, Ch. 30; Feb. 26, 10 p.m., the mtn.; Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m., the mtn.

About the Utes » Tonight marks the first of three home meets for the Utes. … Utah leads the series with Michigan 20-10 and has won the last five matchups. … Kristina Baskett leads the team with 17 wins and is ranked third in the all-around (39.41).

About the Wolverines » High score this season is 195.875. ... Is in danger of not qualifying for the NCAAs for the first time in 16 years. … Junior Sarah Curtis has won four all-around competitions and has a season-high of 39.4. ... Coached by Bev Plocki (374-99-1 in her 19th season).

Elsewhere » Utah State, Boise State and San Jose State compete in a quad meet at Brigham Young tonight at 7 p.m. In Cedar City, SUU hosts Iowa at 7 p.m.

No. 15 Michigan at No. 1 Utah

Today, 7 p.m. Huntsman Center

TV » Sunday, noon, Ch. 30; Feb. 26, 10 p.m., the mtn.; Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m., the mtn.