Utah takes comfort from plight of UCLA

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NCAA Women's

Gymnastics Championships

April 20-22, at Corvallis, Ore.

Members of Utah's gymnastics team were upset with themselves after making several mistakes in their Northeast regional performance Saturday. By the end of the post-meet team dinner, they had found some solace. Not in comfort food, but in the knowledge that at least they were still going to nationals.

Perennial powerhouse UCLA couldn't say that, and neither could Stanford, a team many coaches had pegged as a team that might finish in the top five.

Utah scored a 195.7 Saturday to finish second to host Michigan (196.0) in the Northeast regional and advance to the NCAA Championships on April 20-22 in Corvallis, Ore.

"We're all just happy to be going, and that we did what we could to get us there," sophomore Ashley Postell said.

In a random draw that took place Sunday, No. 2 Utah was placed in the afternoon session on Thursday, April 20, with No. 5 Alabama, No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 7 LSU, No. 12 Nebraska and No. 9 Michigan. The Utes will start on beam. The evening session will consist of No. 1 Georgia, No. 11 Arizona State, No. 4 Iowa State, No. 3 Florida, No. 18 Arkansas and host No. 16 Oregon State.

"It's the same old, same old," Marsden said. "If we go and do our job, we should be fine, but if we go and have mistakes then there are a lot of teams that could beat you."

Breakdowns didn't hurt the Utes Saturday, but other teams weren't so lucky.

Eighth-ranked Stanford and UCLA, which finished one and two at the Pac-10 Championships, both had several mistakes to take themselves out of the competition.

UCLA, winner of four of the last six championships, won't participate in nationals for the first time since 1991. Utah is the only team that has qualified for nationals every year since it became an NCAA-sanctioned sport 25 years ago.

"It was just a matter of time before one of us didn't make it," Utah coach Greg Marsden said of the usual favorites. "But for both UCLA and Stanford not to make it is a shocker. UCLA looked like they were getting healthy. It's not unusual for them to struggle early in the season and then be strong at the end. And for Stanford to host the event and struggle is a surprise."

The Cardinal and UCLA, which was tied with Michigan in the rankings at No. 9, had falls on the beam that took them out of the running. Fourth-ranked Iowa State, which hosted the North Central region, looked like it was in danger of missing nationals as well.

"Regionals have gotten to be scary," Marsden said. "There isn't much separating the top two teams in the region from that third one."

The one team that separated itself from the rest Saturday was top-ranked and undefeated Georgia. The defending champions were the only ones to score 197 or higher in the regional meets.