Utes turn weakness into strength
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In just a few short weeks the balance beam has evolved from being the Utes' nemesis to their friend.

The Utes, so shaky on the event earlier in the season, made it their strongest event Thursday in the NCAA Championships' preliminary round.

Utah scored a 49.25 on the event, pulling off a performance similar to the one the Utes had in the regional competition. Utah's score was the highest on the event out of the teams competing in the afternoon session.

"It's probably the event we have the most confidence on now," junior Kyndal Robarts said.

The big improvement can be attributed to the team's work but also a new mental outlook, Utah co-coach Megan Marsden said.

"Too many times they were trying to stay on the beam and it doesn't work well on that event," she said. "We started to believe in a new approach and not focusing on trying to not fall as much and just go through their routines. It has changed our scores."

One more time

Senior Daria Bijak qualified for Saturday's event finals with a 9.9 on the uneven bars and Annie DiLuzio qualified for the floor finals with a 9.9. Robarts and Jamie Deetscreek both qualified on the balance beam with 9.9s.

Bijak finished with a 39.425 in the all-around, good enough to tie for third in the afternoon session with UCLA's Vanessa Zamarripa .

LSU's Susan Jackson won the all-around title with a 39.625.

Former Utah gymnast Sarah Shire , another favorite in the all-around, fell off the balance beam and scored just 9.3, leaving her with an all-around score of 39.0. She scored a 9.925 on the vault, 9.875 on the uneven bars and 9.9 on the floor.

Making up for mistakes

Robarts was one of the heroines in Utah's regional meet when she overcame a sprained ankle to place second in the all-around.

On Thursday she played the opposite role, having the team's only fall on floor. However, she rebounded to score 9.85 on the vault, 9.8 on the bars and 9.9 on the balance beam, an effort that didn't go unnoticed.

lwodraska@sltrib.com