The way that Utah sophomore Becky Tutka sports a big bow in her hair and twists and turns her body like some Shakira wannabe has some fans on gymnastics chatboards in a tizzy.
"They think she is being obnoxious," Utah co-coach Megan Marsden says with a sly smile.
The fans obviously aren't Utah fans; judging by the reaction Tutka is getting, her floor routine is one of the most popular the Utes have had in years.
The judges seem to agree too, since Tutka has scored 9.85 or higher with every routine and is ranked sixth in the nation with the event.
The infectious routine, set to Shakira's tune "Rabiosa," has become the exclamation mark for Utah's home meets as it plays to the crowd and to Tutka's bubbly personality.
"Floor has always been my favorite event, and I love to go out there and perform," she said. "You have to be able to sell a routine and I didn't know if I could do it, but it gives me a lot of confidence to do it."
Tutka knew she wanted a catchy routine this year and wanted to use something by Shakira. To help her with some ideas, Tutka went to former Utah gymnast Gael Mackie, who helped her choreograph the routine. Another former gymnast, Cortni Beers, also pitched in with ideas. The three have come up with a routine that is playful, dancy and a crowd and team favorite.
"She knows how to put on a good show," fellow gymnast Mary Beth Lofgren said. "She is really outgoing, so it's perfect for her."
The routine is just the kind of performance Marsden imagined Tutka could deliver when she was recruiting the Pennsylvania native.
A 2010 Junior Olympic National Team member, Tutka had a good reputation, but wasn't as highly rated as some of the other elites available. However, Marsden rightly predicted she'd be a hit at Utah after watching her compete.
"I told Greg [Marsden] I think I found a college gymnast for us," she said. "Floor routines in college are different than the elite level and sometimes it takes somebody some time to come into college and get excited about finally getting to be uninhibited, but not Becky. It was like she was waiting for this moment. When I was watching her train, I could envision Becky in front of our crowd and she wanted to show me everything too."
Tutka's routine stands out too because other teammates struggling with the concept of being so free with themselves, just as Marsden predicted.
"It's a tricky thing because you have to have a personality where you don't mind being a little silly or going over the top," Marsden said. "But that is what we love about Becky she doesn't mind that and hopefully she can show the others how to do that."
However, a flashy style wouldn't mean much if Tutka didn't have the skills to make her worthy of being in the anchor spot. Luckily, she has plenty of difficulty in her routine, warranting her move from leadoff gymnast a year ago to anchor today.
"She was perfect in the leadoff spot last year because she was so dependable," Greg Marsden said. "But this year, with so many seniors gone, she has the perfect routine to end our set with. She is such a competitor she is someone who is better in competition than in training. That isn't to say she isn't a hard worker, but for whatever reason, she reaches a different level when that green flag goes up."
Becky Tutka file
Class/Ht • Sophomore/5 feet
Hometown • Upper Black Eddy, Pa.
Noteworthy • Has scored 9.9 or higher on the floor in the last four meets. … Moved into the balance beam leadoff spot a week ago and earned a 9.725 at Washington. … Has a season-high 9.825 on the balance beam. … Hit 14 of 14 routines as a freshman. … Made the Dean's List and Athletic Director's Honor Roll. … Placed second on beam and fourth in the all-around at the 2010 Junior Olympic Championships.
O Stanford at Utah