Utah Gymnastics Notes: Marsden has Utes go easy

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The biggest meet of the year is less than a week away, but the University of Utah's gymnastics team's practice facility has been rather quiet.

The Utes were scheduled to practice Monday and Tuesday, but instead only did light conditioning work, a change coach Greg Marsden made after gathering his team on Monday and seeing what kind of shape they were in.

"The girls got back from regionals and were really stressed out with school and working out where they're going to live this summer and they've had to resolve that," he said. "Plus, we were pretty beat up, everybody is nursing some injury."

At this point, the Utes aren't adding anything new, just maintaining, so Marsden didn't mind taking it easy, at least not too much.

"I don't think a coach ever relishes not coming in and working hard every day," he said. "But the reality is if their heads aren't in the right place and if their bodies don't feel good, we risk further injury. . . . To me I made a decision that is more important to me than grinding through more routines."

Nina Kim's knee is sore, but most of minor injuries to her teammates are improving. Sophomore Jessica Duke, who has a small broken bone in her left hand, estimated she was about 85 percent and could compete in the all-around if she was asked to do so.

"Vault hurts the worst because you're putting full pressure on it, but it's never really been that bad," she said.

Top honors

Former Kentucky standout Jenny Hansen, the only woman to win three straight all-around titles, has been named the most outstanding gymnast over the past 25 years in NCAA championship competition.

The nominees included Utah assistant Megan Marsden and former Utah great Missy Marlowe, as well as Kim Arnold (Georgia), Jamie Dantzscher (UCLA), Kelly Garrison-Steves (Oklahoma), Kim Hamilton (UCLA), Penny Hauschild (Alabama), Kristen Maloney (UCLA) and Hope Spivey (Georgia)

Hansen won eight NCAA titles. She won the all-around in 1993, 1994 and 1995 and the beam and vault in 1994 and 1995 and the floor in 1995.

The winner was selected by coaches association members.

"Sometimes I have to remember back to when I was doing gymnastics because I've been coaching for so long," said Marsden, a four-time All-American from 1981-84. "A lot of the women I've coached have gone on to other careers and their gymnastics is over. Missy was one of them. I'm quite proud to say she was one I coached."

And classes too

Sophomore Ashley Postell admitted it was hard for her and her teammates to keep their minds on schoolwork with nationals looming. The Utes leave Tuesday morning for Corvallis, Ore.

"There are so many things on everyone's mind," she said. "School is the most important on the priority list. But when you get to the gym, it becomes the most important thing."

Asked if she has counseled the freshmen and given them advice on how to stay focused, Postell answered with a giggle.

"I'm still trying to work on myself," she said.

The lowdown

Technically, teams aren't seeded at nationals because every team finished first or second at regionals. However, most involved in the championships recognize the team's score it earned at regionals as its seeding going into the NCAA Championships.

Based on that system, the Utes are seeded 11th, only ahead of Arkansas.

NCAA Championships

April 20-22, Corvallis, Ore.