After a long season of cramming from week to week, the Utah gymnastics team suddenly finds itself with a little free time on its hands, and that isn't such a bad thing.
Utah, which competes in the NCAA Northeast Regional on Saturday at Ann Arbor, Mich., has lightened its practice schedule to give the gymnasts a chance to recover and refresh before the postseason push.
The second-ranked Utes must finish first or second Saturday in the six-team regional to advance to the NCAA Championships, which will be held April 20-22 at Corvallis, Ore.
"We're doing very low numbers from here on out," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "We're going for high quality and low numbers so hopefully they'll feel fresh once they get to the regional site."
Utah has lost Katie Kivisto and Natalie Nicoloff for the season because of arm injuries, but the rest of the gymnasts are relatively healthy, and Marsden would like them to stay that way.
"This meet is a little dangerous because we don't want them to overlook a meet like this," Marsden said. "But we don't want to take a team and beat them up in practice either."
Gabi Onodi has an inflamed tendon in her leg that limited her to bars and beam in practice and will keep her limited to those events in Saturday's meet. Freshman Kristina Baskett tweaked her back with a hard landing on the floor in practice Sunday, but said she'd be ready to go by Saturday.
While many gymnasts have said they're feeling the wear and tear of the season, senior Gritt Hofmann said she was rejuvenated now that the postseason is here.
"It's good to have a little break, but I'm ready to go," she said. "I had a harder time in the middle of the season."
No time on the floor
Freshman Beth Rizzo is expected to redshirt this year, unless Utah suffers several injuries and Marsden is left with no choice but to use her.
Rizzo, from Hoffman Estates, Ill., should help the Utes on vault and floor in the future, Marsden predicted.
"We just wanted her to get through this year and see what it was about," Marsden said. "She is talented and she has the skills to compete, but we don't want to burn the year for her unless we get in a really difficult situation and we have to."
Motoring in the motor city
Flying into a major city such as Detroit seemingly would be an easy task, but the Utes, who leave Thursday, had to book two separate flights for the 19-member traveling party because of limited available seats. The gymnasts and some of the coaches will take a direct flight Thursday and the others will have to connect through Cincinnati.
Who are you?
The Utes lead Michigan 15-9 and are 1-4 against the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, with the lone win coming this year. Utah is 9-0 combined against regional foes Auburn, New Hampshire and Pittsburgh, and has never competed against Rutgers.