Utah's gymnastics team has one of its toughest challenges of the season this week as the No. 9 Utes travel to No. 5 Florida on Friday.
However, the Utes view the meet as an opportunity, too. This should be the first of two trips to Gainesville in about a month for the Utes, since Florida is the host site of the 2010 NCAA Championships April 22-24.
The Utes, who have qualified for every NCAA Championship, are using this trip as a chance to get familiar with the arena and town to give them a bit of a comfort level for the NCAAs.
"We are going to do a lot of talking and rehearsing of what we want to do," Utah co-coach Megan Marsden said. "We'll have the freshmen look at the arena really well because they haven't been in that arena and take it all in so that when we go back, we can take a been there, done that kind of approach and go in and replicate our performance."
The Utes haven't had much success competing in Gainesville, losing their last three regular season meets in Gainesville. Florida last hosted the NCAAs in 1997, which marked the first time the Utes failed to qualify for the Super Six since the format went into place in 1993.
Little changed in the rankings this week, with the Utes remaining at No. 9 and the top three teams holding their spots. Michigan, which beat the Utes earlier this season, breaks into the Top 10 at No. 10.
Individually, SUU's Elise Wheeler is ranked No. 14 in the all-around (39.365) and Utah's Daria Bijak is No. 15 (39.345).
Former Utah gymnast Sarah Shire , who transferred to Missouri after her freshman year, is having a breakout season and currently is ranked No. 1 in the all-around with a 39.358 average.
Earlier this year, she was named the Big 12 Gymnast of the Week for the fifth time this season and has won the honor 12 times in her career, a record for any gymnast in the conference.
Marsden said she was pleased to see Shire doing so well, even if things didn't work out for her at Utah.
"We knew what she was capable of doing, that's why we recruited her and at the time she was one of the best athletes the USA had to offer, it just didn't pan out for her here and I'm not sure if it would have even with time," Marsden said. "Who knows, but with Missouri it did seem the right fit very quickly, she just needed to get her game back on. It's not a surprise to see her doing so well."
Utah's Kyndal Robarts is ranked No. 6 in the vault (9.92), Jamie Deetscreek is tied for eighth on the balance beam (9.885) and Annie DiLuzio is tied for eighth on the floor (9.91).
Junior Gael Mackie , who has missed the past three meets with an ankle injury, should return to the uneven bars lineup against the Gators. Mackie is one of Utah's better gymnasts on the bars and scored a 9.85 Friday in exhibition.
"She proved that bars is her event," Marsden said. "The hard part will be deciding who comes out of the lineup because other people have stepped up in her absence. But she is someone with experience and we need her back and contributing."
RQS, Previous ranking
1. Alabama, 197.155, 1
2. Oklahoma, 196.935, 2
3. UCLA, 196.9, 3
4. Georgia, 196.69, 5
5. Florida, 196.685, 4
6. Arkansas, 196.51, 7
7. Oregon St., 196.46, 8
8. Stanford, 196.45, 6
9. Utah, 196.275, 9
10. Michigan, 196.215, 12