Senior Stephanie McAllister scored a 39.45 to take second in the all-around in the afternoon session. Corrie Lothrop (39.425) was third.
April 20, 2012
The Utah gymnastics team is in the NCAA Super Six team finals for a record 18th time in the 20-year history of the finals format after placing second in its semifinal Saturday afternoon in the Gwinnett Center. Bolstered by one of its best team efforts of the year--the Utes performed 24 routines without a fall--Utah scored a 197.200 to place second to UCLA (197.400). Stanford completed a Pac-12 sweep in the first session, placing third with a 197.125. Six other teams will vie for the remaining three positions in tonight's semifinal. The Super Six begins at 4 p.m. EDT tomorrow.
The seventh-seeded Utes seemed loose and confident throughout the meet--at least during the actual competition. The jitters started as soon as freshman Kassandra Lopez successfully dismounted from the beam as Utah's final competitor, at which point the Utes went into a bye while No. 3 seeded Oklahoma and 10th-seeded Stanford gunned for their 197.200 score. Utah had already finished ahead of Nebraska (196.625) and LSU (196.550).
"When we finished on beam, we knew it was a pressure cooker," said coach Megan Marsden. "I didn't know if our last score on beam would be enough. It went down to the last routines by both Oklahoma and Stanford before we were OK."
Not just OK, but Super as it turned out. Utah extended its record streak of Super Six qualifications to 12 straight. In the end, it came down to, well, the end. Placed at the end of the lineup to remove pressure, the rookie Lopez instead found the meet's outcome squarely on her shoulders when senior Kyndal Robarts ran into trouble at the fifth position and scored a 9.45. Lopez, competing in her first NCAA Championship, calmly scored a 9.80 and Utah avoided counting a score that would have dashed its Super Six hopes.
"We have been practicing with a lot of pressure this past month," said Lopez. "I tried not to do anything different than in I do in practice. I get into trouble when I get conservative."
Utah's performance was about more than the final routine, however. That the Utes advanced as a team and not as individuals was emphasized by the fact that just two--freshman Kailah Delaney and Georgia Dabritz--qualified into the individual event finals on Sunday. Delaney had the winning vault score in the first session, scoring a 9.95, while Dabritz tied for second with a 9.925.
While they didn't make individual event finals, senior Stephanie McAllister (39.45) and Corrie Lothrop (39.425) finished second and third in the all-around to earn first-team All-America honors. Their final placements will be known after the second session as the all-around standings are combined on the first day (unlike the event results).
The Utes were especially impressive in the first half of the meet, when they started fast on floor (49.25) and were absolutely dominating vault, where their 49.525 would stand as highest score by any team on any apparatus in the afternoon semi.
Lothrop's 9.875 led Utah on floor in the first rotation. Scoring a 9.85 were Nansy Damianova, Dabritz, McAllister and Robarts. Freshman Becky Tutka, Utah's first competitor of the championships, scored a 9.80, which was dropped, but served its function to get the Utes started on the right track.
When full first rotation scores were in, Oklahoma led (49.325), followed by Utah and UCLA (49.275), Nebraska and Stanford (49.150) and LSU (48.95).
Next came vault and a season-best 49.525. McAllister, a first-team All-America vaulter a year ago, scored a career-tying 9.90 as Utah's first competitor. The scores kept coming with Dabritz (9.925) and Delaney (9.95) tying career highs, and freshman Tory Wilson scoring a 9.90.
While on its first bye (before bars), Utah remained in first. After all teams completed two events, the standings were Utah 98.80, UCLA 98.725, Oklahoma 98.575, Stanford 98.450, LSU 98.20 and Nebraska 98.150.
Utah came out of the bye room sharp, scoring a 49.225 on bars, led by Lothrop's 9.875. Cortni Beers, Dabritz and McAllister all scored 9.85s.Though UCLA would sneak ahead, 148.050-148.025, the Utes were a solid second after four teams had completed three rotations. Stanford (147.750), Oklahoma (147.70) and Nebraska (147.40) were the others.
Balance beam went smoothly through four competitors with Lothrop (9.825), McAllister (9.85), Mary Beth Lofgren (9.85) and Cortni Beers (9.85) walking through their routines as though they were practicing in the Dumke Center on the U. campus. But Robarts, Utah's best beam worker, missed a connection and had a big wobble, scoring a 9.45. Fortunately, Lopez' 9.80 routine kept Robarts' score off the board.
Utah's quest for an 11th national championship begins Saturday at 4 p.m. EDT (2 p.m. MDT). There will be no live video streaming since the meet will be broadcast on espn3.com. The same will hold true for Sunday's individual event finals. Here are live scoring links for the two remaining competitions:
Live Scores for Super Six Team Finals Saturday, April 21, 4:00 ET/2 p.m. MT.
Live Scores for Individual Event Finals Sunday, April 22, 1:00 p.m. ET/11 a.m. MT.
Also, be sure to follow updates on Utah's Twitter Site