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LINCOLN, Neb. - What makes the NCAA Gymnastics national championships so difficult is having to put together two great meets, or in the case of those who make the cut for the individual championships, three great meets back-to-back.
In the coming weeks, Utah's top-ranked team gets a little taste of what lies ahead for them in April.
Utah competes at No. 6 Nebraska today, then at No. 7 Georgia next week, then returns home to host No. 4 Florida, Stanford and Cal in a quad meet.
All three offer something different. Despite its ranking, Nebraska averages fewer than 1,000 fans, certainly not the kind of atmosphere to which Utah is accustomed. Then Utah travels to Georgia, which sells out its arena with 9,951 fans who treat gymnastics meets more like football games, complete with tailgating. After that, Utah returns home for the quad meet, highlighted by the Gators, a legitimate contender for the national title for the first time in several years.
"This is the most challenging schedule we've had since I've been here," senior Annabeth Eberle said.
It's a great test for sure, but not one coach Greg Marsden had in mind when he put it together.
"You just schedule people when you can make it work and where you are going to be, I can't take any credit for it," he said. "But we want to win all three meets. We're a talented and deep team."
Of the three, Marsden worries most about Nebraska, and not because it is the first. The Huskers are just 2-4, but have scored above 196.675 in their last four meets. Undefeated Utah has scored higher than that mark just twice.
Whether the scoring differential is a product of tighter judging at Utah meets or if Nebraska is simply a better team is a question that will be answered today, as well as how Utah does in front of a small audience.
"At least at Georgia, we know there is going to be a packed house and a lot of energy there, and we'll be up for it," he said. "I'm more worried about getting up for this, because it's a Sunday meet and there might be only 500 people there. They are going to be ready for us, and if we don't have it together, we'll lose."
Women's gymnastics today
What: No. 1 Utah at No. 6 Nebraska, 1 p.m. MST
Utah: Senior Gritt Hofmann has had some problems with her wrist and might be kept out of the lineup.
Nebraska: The Huskers are led by 2003 all-around champion Richelle Simpson, who has a season best 39.65 in the all-around and a 10.0 on the vault.