Go Utes!
Go Utes!
Women Gymnasts Prepare for NCAA Midwest Regional

March 25, 1998

ute gymnasts

prepare for ncaa midwest regional in tempe, ariz., sat., april 4


Up next for the No. 3 ranked Utes (7-3) is the NCAA Midwest Region Championship, Sat., April 4 in Tempe, Ariz. ... Utah is the top-seeded team in the Midwest Region ... For the first time since 1995, the Midwest Region will not be held in Salt Lake City. Arizona State is host to this year's regional event. Meet time is 6 p.m. Pacific time in the University Activity Center ... The other four regions and their sites: Central (Alabama), Northeast (Pittsburgh), Southeast (Georgia), West (Washington) ... The winner of each regional receives an automatic bid to the 1998 NCAA Championships, April 16-18 in Los Angeles (host UCLA) ... Utah moved up to No. 3 in the nation from its previous No. 4 position in the final regular season poll.


Utah has won the last 10 NCAA Midwest Region championships ... Utah is 22-8-1 all-time in Tempe against all competition (7-7-1 against ASU) ... Utah is owner of a record 10 national championships (four in the 1990s) ... Utah's three losses this year (7-3) is its most in a decade. The 1988 Utes finished 16-3, won the Midwest regional and finished second at the NCAA Championships ... Utah is ranked nationally by event as follows: vault 5th, bars 3rd, beam 2nd, floor 8th.


The winner of each of the nation's five NCAA regional meets is awarded an automatic berth in the 12-team NCAA Championships. The remaining seven spots go to the next seven highest scoring teams, regardless of region place. Last year the Midwest region sent winner Utah, along with runner-up Arizona State and third place Nebraska. All three placed in the top seven at the NCAA Championships--the most by any region.


The NCAA region championships format consists of one session of seven teams and seven individuals. Teams and individuals are seeded according to their regional qualifying score (RQS). Individual qualifiers are placed with the correspondingly seeded team. The gymnast assigned to Utah is No. 1 ranked individual all-arounder Jennifer White of Denver (38.700 RQS). There are seven rotations, with four events and three byes for each team/individual. As the No. 1 seed, Utah's competition order will be: bye, vault, bars, bye, beam, bye, floor.

Arizona         5-11
Arizona State   24-4
Brigham Young   8-3
Nebraska        14-4
Oklahoma        12-6
Utah            7-3
Utah State      8-11

field AT A GLANCE Utah: 7-3 Rank: No. 3 1997 NCAA Finish: 7th Arizona State: 24-4 Rank: No. 9 1997 NCAA Finish: 2nd Nebraska: 14-4 Rank: No. 10 1997 NCAA Finish: 6th Brigham Young: 8-3 Rank: No. 11 (tie) 1997 NCAA Finish: n/a Arizona: 5-11 Rank: No. 22 1997 NCAA Finish: n/a Utah State: 8-11 Rank: No. 24 1997 NCAA Finish: n/a Oklahoma: 12-6 Rank: unranked 1997 NCAA Finish: n/a


Seeding from regionals into the NCAA Championships is determined by regional score. If the host team (this year UCLA) qualifies, it and all like-numbered teams (even or odd) will be placed in the evening session on April 16. The remaining six teams will compete in the afternoon session. The top three teams from each of Thursday's sessions--regardless of score--advance to Friday's Super Six competition, where the NCAA champion will be crowned.


Six of the seven teams from last year's Midwest Region field are back. Oklahoma, which replaced Denver, is the only change ... The last time a team other than Utah won the NCAA Midwest Regional was back in 1987, when Arizona State edged Utah by 0.4 in Tempe ... In the 16-year history of the NCAA Midwest Regional, no team other than Utah and ASU has won (Utah 13 times, ASU 3 times) ... The Midwest region, the nation's strongest from 1982-97, is right up there again: It and the Central region both have four teams ranked in the top 11 nationally ... Host Arizona State has won 12 straight home meets dating back to February 2, 1996, when the Sun Devils lost to Utah, 193.875-193.250 ... ASU has hosted the NCAA Midwest regional three previous times (winner in parentheses): 1985 (Utah), 1987 (ASU), 1994 (Utah).


Utah returned to the top of the gymnastics attendance race, averaging 10,211 in its five home meets. Alabama, which edged Utah last year, finished its five-meet schedule with a 9,815 average. It is the fifth season that the Utes have averaged 10,000 in the Huntsman Center, where they have averaged 10,900 over the last seven years. Utah's crowds this year: 11,522 (Arizona), 11,468 (BYU), 9,116 (Minnesota), 9,934 (Utah State) and 9,015 (Oregon State).


[Week of March 23-27] Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday from 1:00-4:00 p.m. [Week of March 30-April 3] Monday, Tuesday from 1:30-4:00. All practices are open. Media interested in interviews should plan to be in the practice facility (HPER W106) 30 minutes prior to the start of practice. All interviews must be completed by the start of practice--NO exceptions. Interviews outside practice can be arranged by calling sports information director Liz Abel at 801-581-3511.


Then sophomore Angie Leonard paved the way for Utah's tenth NCAA Midwest Region title in a row by winning the all-around in a 39.30. Leonard also tied for first on vault and bars. Utah, which defeated eventual NCAA Championships runner-up Arizona State 195.700-195.225, fared well on three of four events, but a poor outing on floor made things close at the end. The only team to score a 49.00 on the beam (49.30), Utah was led by Leonard's second-place finish (9.90). The Utes won beam and vault and placed second on bars.


This year, Utah has faced three NCAA Midwest rivals (BYU, Utah State and Arizona) and has posted a 4-1 record against them. The Utes defeated Utah State and Arizona and split with BYU. All-time, including postseason competition, Utah's combined series record against the Midwest field is 249-20-1. The breakdown follows: Arizona 41-0, Arizona State 48-14-1, Brigham Young 58-2, Denver 8-0, Nebraska 25-1-1, Utah State 67-3.


Utah moved up a place to No. 3 in the final national rankings, despite losing to BYU in its final meet. Utah's score in the loss--a 195.975--improved its regional qualifying score to 196.062, good for third. The Utes' highest ranking this year was No. 2--where they spent six weeks. In the final poll, Utah ranks behind Georgia (197.081 RQS), ranked No. 1 all season, and Michigan (196.337). The Utes slipped in ahead of No. 4 Florida (196.012) and Alabama (194.012).The complete poll is on page 6 of this release.


Utah hit 23 of 24 routines in its final test before regionals, but suffered its first "complete" meet loss ever to Brigham Young in Provo on March 21, 196.050-195.975. Injuries to key performers caused some lineup juggling, though Utah's substitutes filled in well. The Utes led after every rotation but the last--when a 49.175 BYU floor score moved the Cougars out in front. Ute sophomore Denise Jones and freshman Shannon Bowles tied for runner-up honors in the all-around with a 39.05. It was Jones' third straight 39.00 all-around. Bowles was on target for a huge score, which included a career-best 9.95 vault, before falling on her last event (beam). All-arounder Angie Leonard sat out of floor and beam due to an aggravated shin injury, three-event freshman Theresa Wolf missed her second straight week with a heel contusion and junior Sarah Northrop skipped vault (knee, ankle injuries).


Sophomore Jenny Schmidt underwent surgery on Dec. 27 to repair the patellar tendon in her right knee and is out for the season.


Utah's Greg Marsden, the most successful coach in collegiate gymnastics history, is in his 23rd year at the U. He owns a 660-92-3 record (88%). He is 334-43-1 (88%) in regular season competitions. His ten national championships is triple that of any other coach. Four of those titles have come in the '90s (1990, '92, '94, '95). Fourteen of Marsden's teams have placed in the top-two nationally. The only coach in Utah's gymnastics history, Marsden is a seven-time national coach of the year selection.


Junior Angie Leonard will have a big cheering section at regionals. Leonard is from Tempe and competed for the Desert Devils club ... Utah is 2-3 on the road and 0-2 at neutral sites ... Utah has completed a 49.00 circuit twice this year--against Brigham Young (196.825) and Washington (196.225) ... the Utes are the top-ranked team in the Midwest Region, followed by defending NCAA runner-up Arizona State ... Uneven bars has produced Utah's highest score in eight meets, including a season-best score (for any event) of 49.475 vs. Utah State on Feb. 27 ... Utah has had just one "perfect" meet--hitting all 24 routines against BYU in Salt Lake City on Feb. 6. The Utes have twice gone 23 of 24 (road meets at Washington and BYU), had two falls three times (Arizona, Utah State at home and Oregon State), three falls once (Minnesota), four falls twice (at Utah State and Stanford) and five falls once (at Michigan) ... Total, Utah has hit 218 of 240 routines (91%). The breakdown by event: Vault 57-60, Bars 57-60, Beam 47-60, Floor 57-60.


Utah's only senior, Traci Sommer, an all-arounder her first three years at Utah, is starring on three events this year. Sommer has been a rock, hitting 23 of 24 routines (she sat out two meets with knee and back injuries). She has not had a fall since the first meet of the year, when she fell on beam. A two-time first-team balance beam All-American, Sommer has averaged just under a 9.90 in her last five meets. She received a perfect 10 on March 14--the second 10 of her career and the first since her freshman year. In that meet, her last in Utah's Huntsman Center, she also had a season-best 9.925 on the floor. Although she has not cracked the bar lineup this year, Sommer has a fine all-around history: She has 18 career 39.00 all-arounds and owns the fifth-best score in history (39.70, Mar. 7, 1997). In her career, she has "hit" 156 of 175 routines (89%). Her breakdown by year: 46-51 (1995), 42-47 (1996), 45-53 (1997), 23-24 (1998). This year she tied one career high--a 10.0 on beam. Her season bests: vault 9.85, bars 9.625, beam 10.0 and floor 9.925.


Junior All-American Angie Leonard finished the regular season ranked seventh in the nation in the all-around (39.225 RQS). The last (March 24) rankings also found Leonard at No. 10 on bars (9.894 RQS). She is questionable to compete all-around at regionals. Leonard, who competed only on vault and bars due to a shin injury in the last regular season meet, could be absent on floor and beam again at regionals. She is second on the team in wins with 13 and tied for first in all-around wins (3). Her 39.60 all-around score against Utah State on Feb. 27 is tied for the best score of the year by a Ute and the eighth-best score in school history. Her six 39.00 or better all-around scores is tied for best on the team. She has 14 career 39.00 all-around scores. Leonard's five bar victories this year is the most on a single event by a Ute. In her career, she has 16 wins on the bars. Her victory breakdown this season: bars (5), all-around (3), vault (2), floor (2), beam (1). Utah's most consistent upper-class all-arounder, Leonard has hit 119 of 131 (91%) routines in her career. On bars, she is a near-perfect 35 of 36. She has not missed a bar routine since her freshman year. On all events this season, she is 34 of 38. Leonard has set or tied two personal bests this year--9.925 on beam and 9.925 on floor (tie). Her season bests: all-around 39.60, vault 9.85 (twice), beam (9.925), floor (9.925).


Freshman sensation Shannon Bowles finished the regular season ranked No. 4 in the all-around (39.225 RQS). She is ranked fifth on vault (9.887) and beam (9.894). Bowles leads Utah in victories with 14 and is tied for most all-around wins (3). Her six 39.00 all-arounds is tied for best on the team. The current U.S. National Team member tied the eighth highest all-around score in school history with her 39.60 against BYU on Feb. 6. She followed with a 39.50 against Minnesota on Feb. 13. Bowles is one of just two Utes to score a 10.0 this year (Traci Sommer is the other). She and Sommer (now a senior) are the only Utes ever to score a 10.0 as freshmen. She has the second best score by a Ute this year as well: a winning 9.95 vault at BYU on Mar. 21. Bowles has won at least one event in seven of 10 meets. She has gone all-around eight times, going three events in the season-opener and competing only on bars at Washington due to a foot injury. Bowles' individual victory breakdown follows: beam (4), vault (4), all-around (3), floor (2), bars (1). She won her collegiate all-around debut on January 23 at Michigan, scoring a 39.25. She has the most 9.875-or-better scores on the team (15): 5 on beam, 5 on bars, 4 on vault, 1 on floor. The rookie has hit 33 of 36 routines this season (92%). Her highs by event this year: all-around 39.60, vault 9.95, bars 9.90 (twice), beam 10.0, floor 9.875.


Marilyn Ekdahl--Freshman is one of Utah's best competitors ... in bar lineup all 10 meets, she has also vaulted to count six times and gone on floor once ... scored 9.825 on March 21 in first time out on floor ... will compete on bars and possibly vault and floor at regionals ... broke career uneven bar high two weeks running: then-best 9.85 at Washington on Feb. 20 and new high 9.875 against Utah State on Feb. 27 ... on vault has twice scored 9.75 (vs. Arizona and Minnesota) ... only miss of year was in second meet (on vault) ... has nailed 16 of 17 routines ... best scores this year by event: vault 9.75 (twice), bars 9.875, floor 9.825.

Denise Jones--All-arounder has come into own as season progressed ... 39.00 all-around in last three meets (39.10 vs. Stanford, 39.125 vs. Oregon State, 39.05 vs. BYU) ... four total 39.00 all-around scores ... all-around runner-up in last three meets ... two wins are both on bars (BYU and OSU, tie) ... career highs set this year: all-around 39.25, bars 9.90, floor 9.85 (tie) ... season-bests: 39.25 all-around, bars 9.90, beam 9.825, floor 9.85 (tie) ... has hit 30 of 36 routines ... 81 of 90 (90%) in her career.

Ashley Kever--Competed on floor in all 10 meets ... in beam lineup five times ... will likely compete on both beam and floor at regionals ... has scored below 9.70 on floor just once and that was in first meet of season ... averaging 9.8 in last five meets ... season bests are 9.80 on beam and 9.85 on floor ... has hit 12 of 15 routines this year.

Molly Northrop--Second-team beam All-American is also great bar worker ... very consistent two-event performer has been in bar lineup every meet and in beam lineup in 9 of 10 meets ... career high 9.90 on bars on Feb. 6 ... season-best 9.80 on beam was also on Feb. 6 ... has missed just one routine all year (on beam, Feb. 27) ... has seven 9.80 or better scores this year ... won first event of career on Feb. 6, when she tied for first on bars ... is 18 of 19 this season (95%).

Sarah Northrop--Will lead off on bars and possibly on vault at regionals ... cracked both lineups third of way through season ... back-to-back misses on vault Mar. 6 and Mar. 14, but latter was caused by injury ... sprained both knees and one ankle in opening vault against Oregon State ... returned to bar lineup for regular season finale ... gives Utah good first score on bars--averaging 9.80 ... tied career vault high in first try of season, against BYU on Feb. 6 (9.80) ... season bar best of 9.85 ... will compete on bars and possibly vault at regionals.

Angelika Schatton--Vault regular is frequent substitute on both beam and floor ... best three-event outing was at BYU on Mar. 21: 9.65 vault, 9.775 beam, 9.725 floor ... averages just under 9.75 on vault ... career and season bests on vault (9.80, twice), beam (9.80) and floor (9.75) ... will be in vault lineup and possibly more at regionals ... is 16 of 18 for season.

Jenny Schmidt--Surgery on Dec. 27 to repair patellar tendon in her right knee ... injured while training uneven bars prior to Christmas ... was coming back from season-ending knee surgery last year (Mar. 7, same knee) ... will miss entire 1998 season.

Theresa Wolf--Missed last two weeks with heel contusion suffered at Stanford on Mar. 6 ... could return on floor at regionals ... career-best 39.175 all-around at Washington on Feb. 20 ... also had "bests" on vault (9.725, tie) and beam (9.85, tie) in Washington meet ... personal best 9.90 on floor against USU on Feb. 27 ... has received 9.80 or better on floor all six attempts (missed Minnesota meet with flu and OSU/BYU meets with foot) ... 9.875 on floor was Utah's top score on any event at Stanford ... won two straight floor competitions (Utah State, Feb. 2 and BYU, Feb. 6) ... also went all-around at Michigan, scoring 38.60 ... has hit 18 of 22 routines.


Arizona--Jim Gault 343-153-1, 18 years; Arizona State--John Spini 233-75-1, 18 years; Brigham Young--Brad Cattermole 111-90-1, 9 years; Nebraska--Dan Kendig 79-19, 5 years; Oklahoma--Becky Buwick 181-76, 15 years; Utah--Greg Marsden 660-92-3, 23 years; Utah State--Ray Corn 351-301-2, 21 years.


Arizona: 5-11 ... ranked No. 22 ... 6th at Pac 10 Championships ... season best is 194.95 ... top all-arounder is Kara Fry (39.25). Arizona State: 24-4 ... defending NCAA runner-up is ranked No. 9 ... best score of 196.050 ... Elizabeth Reid is defending NCAA beam champion (tied with Utah's Summer Reid) ... ASU has no all-arounders. Brigham Young: 8-3 ... ranked No. 11 (tie) ... season-best 196.050 was on March 21 against Utah ... top all-arounders are Angela Andersen (39.45) and Kelly Christensen (39.075). Nebraska: 14-4 ... ranked No. 10 ... won Big 12 championship with season high 196.55 ... All-American Heather Brink was league all-around champion (39.575) ... All-American Misty Oxford has five 39.00 all-around scores. Oklahoma: 12-6 ... 3rd at Big 12 Championships ... best score is 193.95 ... top all-arounder is Ginger Russell (39.25) ... Russell was Big 12 gymnast of the year. Utah State: 8-11 ... ranked No. 24 ... won Big West Championship ... high score of 194.525 at Big West Championships ... top all-arounder is Christy Denson (39.175).


About Utah's Seed: "The top seed is important because of the rotation order (vault, bars, beam, floor). It's an especially good order when you're in a pressure environment. I'd like to see it changed to where you get only one vault, because it is such an advantage to start on vault the way it is now. If you go into regionals or nationals a little nervous, you get a chance to make up for a mistake. With that said, we worked very hard to get a number one seed." On the Midwest Region: "As usual, it appears to be one of the strongest regions in the country. In particular, there are four very strong teams in Utah, Arizona State, Nebraska and BYU." On Utah's Status: "We did a pretty good job at BYU, all things considered. We had some people competing on events they hadn't done all year. We are really beat up right now and it's going to be hard to train the way we need to. People are going to have to depend on their experience and self confidence to do well, since our preparation will be far from ideal due to injuries."



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