Utah gymnastics: Ute regains her poise on balance beam

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After two straight falls off the balance beam, it was obvious Utah's Jamie Deetscreek and her favorite event weren't getting along very well. Luckily, it only took a weekend for the two to make up.

Deetscreek, a sophomore, has all but solidified her role as Utah's leadoff on the beam, an event in which she delivered three scores of 9.8 or higher to start the year. Falls against BYU and Washington put her role in jeopardy, but coaches left her in the lineup when Utah competed twice in a weekend. She responded with a 9.825 against Utah State and SUU and a 9.85 at UCLA and is expected to be Utah's first up on the event when the second-ranked Utes host No. 7 Oregon State Friday.

"It helped to have those two meets in a row," Deetscreek said. "I wasn't as nervous after I made the first and to have another meet so soon helped me be ready."

Deetscreek didn't need extra physical practices just a little mental tuneup to get her over the slump. She got the help from co-head coach Megan Marsden, who knew from her past experience as a Ute gymnast what Deetscreek's fears were.

"Her best work was always in here at practice and then she'd get to the meet and it wasn't even close and I thought, 'That was me,' " Marsden said. "Even though all those people were out there to cheer me on, I was frightened to death to do my routine in front of all those people."

Marsden, who earned 12 All-American honors from 1981-84, worked extensively with sports psychologist Keith Henschen to battle her fears. She passed on what she learned to Deetscreek. Her two biggest tips were to use mental imagery not just in practice but in competition at the Huntsman Center, and to keep herself busy during the meets so she doesn't have time to think about making mistakes.

The tips worked, as Deetscreek has returned to the form that helped her earn a spot in the lineup at the start of the season.

"It has never been a question of if I want her in, because we knew that if she stayed on, it was going to be a great score," Marsden said. "What you want is someone who looks effortless and has nice form on beam and that is what she has."

That same form makes Deetscreek strong on the uneven bars too, an event she has earned a 9.775 and 9.825 in the last two meets. Just as on beam, Deetscreek prefers to be the first up on the bars.

"I like to warm up, go compete and not think about it before I go and do my routine," she said.

Being responsible for getting the Utes off to a good start on the two events is a much different role than she had last season when she spent most of her time as an alternate and competed just four times. She was part of Utah's large freshman group that came to college out of shape and unprepared for the demands of collegiate competition.

"I hated being an alternate because you never know when you are going to compete," she said. "I'd have it in my mind I'd compete, then I wouldn't. It was annoying and I wanted to help out the team more."

Deetscreek, from Hatboro, Pa., stayed in Salt Lake City for part of the summer and worked out with some of her teammates. That time helped her be better prepared physically for this season as well as adjust to college life. Now she is getting her wish, helping out the team more and becoming a better gymnast in the process.

"She is still working with things and I'm not saying there won't be setbacks," Marsden said. "But her whole demeanor has changed. She has made some huge strides and the way she walks into the gym is totally different."


Deetscreek file

Jamie Deetscreek - sophomore

Hatboro, Pa.

* Has career highs of 9.825 on the uneven bars and 9.875 on the balance beam.

* 2002 and 2004 Junior Olympic all-around and beam champion.

* Lists favorite non-Utah team as the Pittsburgh Steelers.