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Talented Utes Set High Bar for 2014

The return of All-American Corrie Lothrop from injury bodes well for the 2014 Utes.

The return of All-American Corrie Lothrop from injury bodes well for the 2014 Utes.

Dec. 3, 2013

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SALT LAKE CITY--


A program doesn't qualify for 38 straight national gymnastics championships and earn 22 top-three finishes without starting each year with a talented roster. But never in the history of its gymnastics dynasty has Utah returned every member and all 24 routines from the previous year's NCAA Championship lineup.

Meet the 2014 Utes, who count a school-record nine All-Americans among their five seniors, five juniors, two sophomores and single freshman. Ironically, even with their entire NCAA squad back, the coaches aren't setting a lineup yet. That's because they need to make room for two All-Americans returning to competition after missing all or most of last year with injuries, as well as the 2013 Junior Olympic all-around champion.

"We went from one of the youngest teams in the nation just a couple of years ago to one of the most veteran teams," said co-head coach Greg Marsden. "Almost everyone on this team has been a starter since their freshman season and knows what it takes to compete for a national championship."

After advancing into the Super Six for 13 straight years, last year's Utes were less than a tenth of a point out of first place entering their final event in the NCAA semifinals when a disastrous beam performance ended their remarkable run. Getting All-Americans Corrie Lothrop and Kailah Delaney back from injuries could prevent a similar debacle on beam from derailing the Utes in 2014.

 

 

"We call Corrie `the rock' because she is so consistent on beam," said Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden. "I'd like to put her first up because a good start is so critical on that event." She added that Delaney could give a boost to the back half of the lineup.

Their return has also fostered a competitive atmosphere on the practice beams that was lacking a year ago when there were four newcomers in the lineup and no bench.

"It was hard for us to simulate meet pressure in practice last year because there was virtually no internal competition for the starting spots," said Megan Marsden. "Now there is competition every day in practice." In addition, says Marsden, "Our gymnasts spent a lot of time in the offseason identifying their mental issues with the beam and working to address them, which we think will pay off in meets."

Balance beam All-Americans Lothrop, Mary Beth Lofgren and Breanna Hughes are solid starters, but seven others will fight for the three remaining spots. Georgia Dabritz, Kassandra Lopez, Tory Wilson and Becky Tutka are all returning starters, while Delaney, Baely Rowe and Haley Lange are hoping to displace someone.

The balance beam received the most critical infusion, but the other events also improved with Lothrop, Delaney and freshman Rowe (the 2013 J.O. all-around champion) joining the mix. On vault, Wilson, a two-time first-team All-American, set a school record as a sophomore in 2013 by going undefeated in the regular season. She is one of three first-team All-Americans on the event with Dabritz and Delaney. Senior Nansy Damianova is an NCAA regional vault champion, a feat also achieved by juniors Wilson and Dabritz.

Utah boasted one of the best bar teams at the 2013 NCAA Championships, where three Utes earned All-America honors and Dabritz was the NCAA runner-up. Making bar finals with Dabritz was Damianova, while Hailee Hansen earned second-team All-America honors. Here again, a lineup that returns all six starters got deeper and stronger in the offseason with the return of 2012 bar All-American Lothrop and the arrival of two-time J.O. bar champion Rowe.

On floor, expectations are that the Utes will again perform some of the most dynamic and difficult floor routines in the country. The difficulty in Utah's routines may be matched only by the difficulty in earning a lineup spot. Damianova, who competed in the NCAA floor finals last year, is one of three All-Americans along with Lothrop and Tutka. Lia Del Priore scored a 10.0 on the mat last year, while Dabritz had a 9.975 best. A healthy Lopez (she did only bars and beam last year due to an injury) has turned heads in the preseason and Wilson, with her giant double layout, Lofgren and Delaney have all started on floor.

SENIOR CLASS

Nansy Damianova: Two-time first-team All-American qualified for both bar and floor finals at last year's NCAA Championships ... three-time regional champion won vault and floor in 2011, and floor in 2013 ... won the 2013 Coaches' Award as Utah's Most Improved Gymnast ... 2008 Canadian Olympian.

Lia Del Priore: Best event is floor, where she scored a 10.0 against Stanford last year ... also scored a career-high 9.90 on vault against Stanford and won the Pac-12 Special Performance of the Week ... did not have a single fall in her first three seasons, hitting 48-of-48 routines ... two career victories.

Hailee Hansen: Second-year co-captain is only the third walk-on in school history to earn All-America honors ... named a second-team All-American on bars at the 2013 NCAA Championships ... CoSIDA Academic All-American carries a 3.958 cumulative GPA ... has won team awards for Most Improved (2012) and top academic performer (2013).

Mary Beth Lofgren: First-team balance beam All-American as a freshman in 2011 ... 2012 NCAA Regional runner-up on beam ... second-team All-Pac-12 Conference in 2013 ... part-time all-arounder's best events are beam and floor and she has also made regular appearances on vault ... has eight career wins ... has won team awards for Most Improved (2011) and top academic performer (2012).

Corrie Lothrop: A five-time All-American in her first two seasons, she missed most of last year with a torn Achilles ... although listed as a senior, she was approved for a medical hardship waiver and has two years of eligibility remaining ... the 2012 Pac-12 all-around champion and Utah's co-MVP, she was the team's best all-arounder as a freshman and sophomore ... two-year team co-captain has 21 career wins, including eight all-around victories ... 2008 U.S. Olympic alternate and international elite.

JUNIOR CLASS

Georgia Dabritz: 2013 NCAA uneven bar runner-up also placed seventh in the all-around and is a five-time All-American ... contender for the NCAA bar and all-around championships has a 10.0 on bars and a 39.700 all-around high ... three-time regional champion won bars in 2012 and 2013, and vault in 2013 ... two-time first-team All-Pac-12 Conference (floor in 2012, all-around in 2013) ... 2012 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year ... 2013 Utah co-MVP ... 30 victories in her first two seasons.

Kailah Delaney: NCAA first-team All-American on vault as a freshman missed her sophomore season in 2013 following knee surgery ... returned to training on all four events during voluntary summer workouts ... 2012 first-team All-Pac-12 on vault ... won Pac-12 Special Performance of the Week against Florida ... has hit 16-of-16 career routines with five wins in her one season competing.

Kassandra Lopez: Slated for an all-around role a year ago before a preseason injury took her out of the vault and floor lineups, she should step into that role as a junior ... 2012 NCAA Regional runner-up on both bars and beam ... had Utah's best beam score in 2013 (9.925).

Becky Tutka: All-American on floor earned second-team honors at the 2013 NCAA Championships and in the regular season ... first-team All-Pac-12 Conference on floor ... went from leadoff as a freshman to anchoring Utah's floor lineup her sophomore season ... also starts on vault and beam ... did not fall in her first two seasons, going 42-42 ... Utah's Most Inspirational Gymnast as a sophomore.

Tory Wilson: Three-time vault All-American earned two awards at the NCAA Championships and one in the regular season ... a leading contender for the NCAA vault title, she has a 10.0 best ... first gymnast in school history to go undefeated on an event during the regular season (10-0 on vault in 2013) ... also has All-America potential in the all-around where she has a 39.650 all-around best ... first-team All-Pac-12 all-arounder ... 2013 NCAA Regional vault champion ... 2013 Utah co-MVP.

SOPHOMORE CLASS

Breanna Hughes: Second-team balance beam All-American as a freshman ... is also one of Utah's best bar workers ... only Ute freshman to compete in every meet in 2013 ... named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week against Georgia ... did not count a fall in her first season, hitting 26-26 routines.

Haley Lange: Gained valuable experience as a freshman as an exhibition performer ... made the exhibition lineup in six meets, including six appearances on vault, five on beam and three on floor ... this year, she hopes to compete for a spot in the vault, beam and floor lineups.

FRESHMAN CLASS

Baely Rowe: Three-time Junior Olympic Champion won the all-around at the 2013 J.O. National Championships and placed first on bars in 2010 and 2012 ... recorded five top-10 all-around finishes at the J.O. Nationals, winning the 2013 title, taking second in 2012, third in 2009, seventh in 2011 and ninth in 2010.

AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO THE UTES

All-Around
Corrie LothropFirst-team All-American, 2012 Pac-12 champion
Georgia DabritzFirst-team All-American
Tory WilsonFirst-team All-Pac-12
Baely Rowe2013 J.O. National Champion
Vault
Kailah DelaneyFirst-team All-American
Georgia DabritzFirst-team All-American
Tory WilsonFirst-team All-American
Uneven Bars
Georgia Dabritz2013 NCAA Runner-up, First-Team All-American
Nansy DamianovaFirst-team All-American
Hailee HansenSecond-team All-American
Corrie LothropSecond-team All-American
Baely RoweTwo-Time J.O. National Champion
Balance Beam
Mary Beth LofgrenFirst-team All-American
Corrie LothropSecond-team All-American
Breanna HughesSecond-team All-American
Floor Exercise
Nansy DamianovaFirst-team All-American, 2011 and 2013 NCAA regional champ
Corrie LothropSecond-team All-American
Becky TutkaSecond-team All-American
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