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Tucson, Ariz. • Utah's gymnastics team has a new clutch performer on the balance beam. With the meet hanging on Mary Beth Lofgren's ability to conquer the four-inch-wide beam, Utah's junior delivered a 9.9 routine Friday to lead the No. 8 Utes to a 196.6-196.075 win over the No. 13 Arizona Wildcats.
After teammate Georgia Dabritz fell, Lofgren knew she had to hit for the Utes to win.
Under more pressure than she can remember, Lofgren tied her career high on the balance beam. Lofgren worked the balance beam like it was four feet wide and not four inches wide.
"It was a little nerve-wracking after Georgia fell," Lofgren said. "I just tried to focus on having fun and fight off any nerves."
The routine was just enough to hold off the Wildcats (6-4), who trailed the whole meet but came within tenths of beating the Utes (4-1) after big efforts on the uneven bars and floor.
"I thought we started the meet and finished it looking a little tight and nervous," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "They were good, but they just weren't as good as we were at home."
Lofgren showed no nerves in her role as anchor. Lofgren held the same spot a year ago, but competed with newfound confidence Friday.
"She had a great meet all the way through the night," Marsden said. "It was by far the best of the season for her."
Lofgren's clutch performance overshadowed some of the other standout performances for the Utes. Tory Wilson won her third vault title in a row with a 9.95, and Corrie Lothrop won the all-around with a season-best 39.4.
That the meet came down to the final routine was a little surprising, given the way the Utes started. While Marsden felt the team was tight on the uneven bars, the scores didn't reflect such anxiety with the Utes scoring a 49.175.
Hometown girl Kassandra Lopez made the most of her lone routine Friday, scoring a 9.8 to lead off the Utes. Others followed with solid routines, giving the Utes a 49.175-48.9 edge after the first rotation. Utah maintained its lead throughout and led by a comfortable 147.775-147.025 going into the final event.
The cushion the Utes had quickly diminished after Becky Tutka had a bobble and scored 9.575. Georgia Dabritz, who has been a rock on the balance beam this year, fell and scored only 9.275.
That mistake opened the door for the Wildcats, who were posting scores of 9.775 and higher on the floor.
The outcome came down to Lofgren, who was smiling and joking with teammates seconds before she went up and won the meet for the Utes.
"We put her in that role last year and she had some nerves where I think she felt the pressure," Marsden said. "But this time she looked confident."
Happy with the way Lofgren and other individuals performed, Marsden said the Utes still have some work to do, as witnessed by some of the shaky routines.
"It's another step forward in the process, but if we want to compete among the best, we have to compete with confidence all the way through," he said.
Utah 196.6, Arizona 196.075
O In short • The Utes beat the Wildcats to remain undefeated in the series, which dates back to 1976.
Key moment • Junior Mary Beth Lofgren scores a 9.9 on the balance beam to seal the win for the Utes.
Key stat • Tory Wilson wins her third vault title in a row, scoring 9.95.
Vault • Tory Wilson (Utah): 9.95
Uneven bars • Aubree Cristello (Arizona) and Georgia Dabritz (Utah): 9.875
Balance beam • Mary Beth Lofgren (Utah): 9.9
Floor • Becky Tutka (Utah): 9.9
All-around • Corrie Lothrop (Utah): 39.4