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INJURY TO SCHAERRER PUTS CLOUD OVER UTES' NCAA TITLE HOPES

The swelling in Shelly Schaerrer's right foot was so bad Monday afternoon that an examination by the University of Utah's team doctor revealed little more than what was already known - that it wasn't a break and wasn't the Achilles tendon. "At the best, it's a very bad sprain," said U. gymnastics coach Greg Marsden at practice late Monday.

"It's really ballooned out, and she can't stand on it," he said of his senior all-arounder from Orem, whose misfortune may have a lot to do with whether No. 1-ranked Utah can win the NCAA Championship next month."The ligament we think might be involved - in the back of the heel - is a very unusual one (to be injured)," Marsden said. It could be torn, partially torn or just stretched or bruised.

"It may be over for her," said Marsden, "but it's not unreasonable to think she might be able to do a bar set at nationals."

The NCAA Midwest Regional will be April 11 at Utah, and the NCAA Championships will be April 24 at St. Paul, Minn. Marsden said he's not even thinking of using Schaerrer in the regional and doesn't expect she could do much more than bars at nationals because of the training time involved.

Marsden did get good news from the doctor on freshman Aimee Trepanier, who felt something give in the sternum area Saturday night that kept her out of the Western Athletic Conference Championships at Provo. That was the meet in which Schaerrer was injured during floor exercise.

"Aimee's is no big deal, just soft tissue," said Marsden, noting it is a recurrence of an old injury stemming from Trepanier's club-gymnastics days. She should be training again soon.

Marsden has talked all season about Utah's depth, as opposed to the past couple of years, when an injury rash like this would have doomed the team. (The Utes have also lost Suzanne Metz to a season-ending arch injury in practice Feb. 28 and vault specialist Meredith King to shin problems; King began working out again Monday after sitting out six weeks.) In February, Marsden had several gymnasts compete in the all-around in an exhibition capacity because he had so many capable gymnasts, and he says that will pay off now. "They know they can do it, and we know they can do it. They can step right in," he says.

"We're not so weakened that we're going to concede anything. We may not be quite as strong. (No. 2-ranked) Georgia may have been a better team (than Utah) before this, but we're not going to give anything away," Marsden said.

"The saddest part of the scenario," said Marsden, is that Schaerrer's gymnastics was dramatically improved in the last several meets, having recently upgraded her vault. She scored 39.2 and 39.45, a career-best, in her last two all-arounds and had 9.85 in each of her first three events before the injury Saturday.