Utah gymnastics: Gymnast no longer is playing catch up

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The first year and a half of Stephanie McAllister's collegiate career was spent playing catchup to the rest of her teammates on the Utah team.

Finally, she's there right alongside them.

McAllister, a sophomore from Indianapolis, Ind., has competed in the all-around the last four meets for the Utes.

Her best mark was a 39.175 against Arizona State, which included a personal best 9.85 on the uneven bars.

"This year, we are seeing what we all new she was capable of doing," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "It was just a matter of it being her time."

McAllister competed the most on the uneven bars and floor last year. She did well in the times she got into the lineups hitting 26 of 27 routines, scoring a career-best 9.825 on the bars in the Super Six competition of the NCAA Championships and earning career best on floor (9.85) and beam (9.8).

However, the chances for her to compete were limited because the Utes had a deep lineup led by Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim, and she still was adjusting to the weekly competitive demands of collegiate gymnastics.

"I had to get used to everything," she said. "This year, I'm a lot more adjusted."

That isn't to say she wasn't nervous about her sophomore season. With Baskett and Kim graduating, McAllister knew the Utes expected more from her.

"At first it scared me," she said. "I had higher expectations too, and went into this year realizing how big of a deal it is to walk into the Huntsman Center and there are 15,000 fans there."

But McAllister's goals switched from being a regular competitor to just getting into the lineup after a series of setbacks in the preseason. First, she fell off the beam in practice and suffered a concussion. Then some kidney infections sidelined her and finally a sprained ankle kept her from practicing.

"It was one thing after another," McAllister said. "I didn't feel fully prepared when we went to UCLA. Now I feel great."

McAllister fell off the bars in the opener against the Bruins and scored just 9.275 and scored a 9.775 on the beam.

She has been steadily improving since.

"Each meet is more and more experience for me," she said. "Each meet I'd learn something new. They were like stepping stones and the last couple I've felt more confident."

The improvement isn't without some growing pains. She had a major deduction against Utah State in her uneven bars and fell off the balance beam at Michigan.

However, Utah co-coach Megan Marsden said the errors were caused more by McAllister pushing herself rather than any deficiencies in her training.

"Sometimes she is trying too hard and wants so badly to do well for the team that she puts a lot of pressure on herself," Megan Marsden said. "Sometimes she does herself in."

A three-year Junior Olympic team member before she arrived at Utah, McAllister reminds Greg Marsden of Baskett, a gymnast who improved throughout her career to become a star performer. He sees the same potential in McAllister.

"She doesn't have great flexibility but she has good solid skills on every event," he said. "She has a personality and a presence and she is fun to watch on the competitive floor. She has to get more precise with some of her landings and other little things, but she is a microcosm of the team. There aren't big things we need to get resolved, it's the little things we need to get better at."


Stephanie McAllister file

Class » Soph.

Hometown » Indianapolis, Ind.

» Only freshman starter in 2009

» Three-year junior Olympic team member

» All-Around career high: 39.175

Utah (5-2) at BYU (2-7)

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