U. welcomes Mackie's return

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Thanks to a severe ankle injury, Utah gymnast Gael Mackie probably won't compete on anything but the uneven bars for the rest of the season.

At least she's making the best of her event.

Mackie, who missed five meets because of the injury, scored a 9.775 on the uneven bars at Florida and earned a 9.9 against BYU. Those scores, particularly the 9.9., are the ones the Utes need if they are to be a contender in the post-season, which starts Saturday when they host an NCAA regional event.

Uneven bars is one of the Utes' better events this season, but Mackie, a 2004 Canadian Olympian, is a gymnast not only capable of hitting but of earning the big scores, Utah co-coach Megan Marsden said.

"She showed how important she is the other night when she goes in, not just first, but deep in the lineup and nails her routine and scores a 9.9," Marsden said. "If she can do that in the postseason, we need her there. That is where she's confident and where she can really help us."

Mackie can give the Utes something else other than just a big score -- confidence. The veteran international competitor has been at her best in Utah's biggest meets, such as when she scored a 9.85 on the bars for the Utes in the Super Six last season and when she delivered a 9.775 in 2008 in the NCAA preliminaries.

She entered her junior year hitting 42 of 47 routines and appeared to be finding her form this year when she suffered the injury.

"I wasn't doing my best at the beginning of the season but things were turning around, floor was getting better and beam was getting better," Mackie said. "It kind of sucked, but injuries are part of sports so it motivated me in rehab."

The injury prevented Mackie from practicing gymnastics but she at least could bike, which helped her cardio, she said. The rest of the rehab was more tedious, but she made the best of it.

"I really focused on getting stronger and each week I wanted to get better," she said. "I worked on my arm strength and things like that [by] lifting."

The Utes would love to have Mackie in the lineup on vault and floor as well, but it's doubtful she'll be healed in time to log enough training hours. Mackie isn't performing full beam or floor routines yet.

"Vaulting is one place that is a maybe," Marsden said. "But it's a little too late on the others. We're just glad to have her on bars because she is so confident there."

Mackie said her recovery goal was to be back in the lineup for the postseason. Now that it's here, she isn't satisfied with just being in the lineup.

"I need to work on my handstands and things," she said. "I know I still have room for improvement."


Mackie's uneven bars scores

Jan. 9 vs. UCLA 9.75

Jan. 15 vs. Iowa St. 9.65

Jan. 22 vs. Georgia 9.775

Jan. 29 vs. Wash. 9.85

Feb. 5 vs. ASU 9.9

Mar. 19 vs. Florida 9.775

Mar. 26 vs. BYU 9.9

NCAA regional

6 p.m. Saturday

At the Huntsman Center