Gymnastics: Utes not afraid to finish meet on beam

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Some teams dread the thought of finishing a pressure meet such as the NCAA Regional Gymnastics Championships on the balance beam. Not the second-ranked Utah Utes, they're actually looking forward to the opportunity.

By random draw, the Utes were given a rotation of starting on the floor after a bye and ending their Saturday competition at the NCAA regionals in Seattle on the balance beam.

That means if the Utes find themselves in a situation where they must deliver a couple of big scores to finish in the top two and qualify for the NCAA Championships, they'll have to produce those marks on the beam, which normally isn't considered a very conducive event to pressure situations.

However, the Utes have proved themselves in similar situations at Nebraska and Oregon State, which gives them confidence they can handle any situation they might face Saturday.

"We are looking at it as a positive rotation," said Utah assistant coach Megan Marsden , who coaches the beam. "I know coaches say all four events count the same but yes, if I got to choose, I'd probably tuck beam somewhere in the middle of the rotation, but honestly, with the way we've performed on beam this season we feel like it could be a positive for us."

At Nebraska, the Utes not only had the pressure of a close meet, but also the added pressure that came when leadoff gymnast Kyndal Robarts fell. The rest of the team scored 9.65 or higher.

"Finishing on beam isn't a big issue," junior Jamie Deetscreek said. "We've handled it well all year."

The Utes also like the fact that they open with a bye, which gives them a little extra time to gather themselves before their competition starts. That means they'll also be on the floor for the final rotation when scores tend to get a little higher as the meet draws to a close.

Furthermore, the Utes feel they can use the high energy floor event to their benefit as well.

"It's going to be a really long night so we get to do it when we aren't tired and if there are nerves and energy, it can help you sometimes on that event," Marsden said. "They can cause you trouble if you are on a technical event like beam."

Healthier than ever

Aside from Beth Rizzo , who recently had surgery on the ankle she hurt in the first meet of the season, the Utes are healthy going into regionals. Utah coach Greg Marsden said it was the best situation he can remember one of his teams being in and gave some credit to the fitness level with which the team started the season.

"We also reminded them that part of this is making good decisions and knowing when to push and knowing when not to," Marsden said. "We've done a good job of backing off when we need to and pushing it a little bit when things are going well. It has been a combination of things. I'd love to say after 37 years we had it worked out and we'll never have another injury, but sometimes no matter what you do, things happen."

Schedule ahead » The Utes will practice today and take Wednesday off before traveling to Seattle on Thursday. They'll get a chance to work out on the equipment Friday, but they already feel comfortable with the arena since they compete at Washington every other year.

NCAA West Region

At Washington

When » Saturday, 7 p.m.

Teams » No. 2 Utah, No. 11 Auburn, No. 14 Illinois, No. 19 Boise State, Washington, San Jose State

Top two teams qualify for NCAA Championships April 16-18 in Lincoln, Neb.