Back in December, there were a lot of questions about whether Utah's gymnastics team could be better on the road than it was last season, when it struggled away from the Huntsman Center.
Doubt no longer exists, not after a season in which the Utes won at UCLA and Michigan and earned some of their highest scores in opponents' arenas.
"Everyone has their head on straight and we're more of a team and not as stressed as we were on the road last year," senior Ashley Postell said. "Last year, everyone was talking about how they were going to beat us and this and that, and it felt like we had to prove ourselves constantly."
Now, being a good road team is more important than ever, and the Utes hope the confidence they built during the season will help them in the postseason, starting with today's NCAA North Central regional championship at Minnesota.
In recent years, what a team scored at the regionals didn't matter; all it had to do was finish in the top two to advance to the NCAA Championships and teams were placed into the afternoon or evening sessions based on a random draw, with a few stipulations.
This season, the formula has changed. Teams that finish in the top two will have their regional mark added to their regional qualifying score to determine a national qualifying score. That number will be used to seed at the nationals.
Session A will include the No. 1, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 12 seeds and session B will include the No. 2, 3, 6, 7, 10 and 11. If top-ranked Georgia, which is hosting the championships, qualifies, it will compete at night. The top three teams from each session advance to the Super Six.
Getting the top seed would benefit a team slightly, since the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds are in the other session.
The Utes finished with a RQS of 197.225, just behind Georgia's at 197.400. Overtaking the Gym Dogs to get the top seed would be nice, but Utah coach Greg Marsden doesn't want his team to get into any number chasing.
"What is important is to get into the next round and advance to the national championships," he said. "We want to have a strong meet and go into the national championships with some confidence. We just want to get there."
Utah has won 21 of the 26 regional championships in which it has participated and is the only program to qualify for all 26 national championships.
Today at Minnesota
Top two advance to NCAA Championships, April 24-26 at Georgia
North Central Breakdown
Utah's competition in Minneapolis:
School National rank All-time vs. Utah 2008 record 2008 High score Top All-arounder
Arkansas No. 11 0-2 8-6 196.260 Casey Jo Magee (39.475)
Arizona No. 14 0-49 6-5 196.125 Karin Wurm (39.5)
Iowa No. 23 0-5 10-4-1 195.900 Jennifer Simbhudas (39.45)
Southern Utah NR 0-15 13-7-1 195.125 Elise Wheeler (39.3)
Minnesota NR 1-27 11-7 195.625 Carmelina Carabajal (39.3)
Elsewhere: BYU competes tonight in the Northeast Regional at Penn State against No. 1 Georgia, No. 12 Auburn, No. 13 Denver, No. 22 Penn State and Iowa State.