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Utah gymnastics: Injured star Corrie Lothrop making the best of unfamiliar role

SALT LAKE CITY — All-American all-around gymnast Corrie Lothrop isn’t sure she’ll ever be completely comfortable with the role she’s played for the Utah gymnastics team this season.

The junior co-captain tore her Achilles on Feb. 1, and has spent the season navigating unfamiliar territory ever since.

“It’s totally different,” she said. “I’m used to being out there and being one of the people contributing scores. Now, being like a cheerleader is really different.”

It’s not that she minds lending support to her teammates. It’s just that she’s used to helping out in a much different way.

“This is so different,” she said. “I’ve never just sat out (in college). You want them to do so well, but it’s hard that I can’t do anything other than cheer, motivate or inspire. I’d rather be able to do more physically.”

Like contribute some of those scores that helped her earn All-American honors last year. She may yearn to help out most when it comes to beam.

“They’ve had some struggles here and there on beam, so I really wish I could step in,” she said. “But I can’t.”

Not that she hasn’t spent more than a few minutes contemplating what-if scenarios.

“I’ve thought about doing bars, and doing maybe a one-legged dismount,” she laughed. “That might be pushing it.”

Lothrop said her teammates have surprised her in how they’ve developed over the course of the season and in the wake of losing such a huge contributor.

“At the beginning (of the season), they were tentative and nervous,” she said. “But ever since that first meet, they’ve slowly been building confidence, and now I think they’re ready for these championships.”

“These championships” are the NCAA nationals where Utah will be the only team in the country to qualify for its 38th-straight appearance. The Utes will compete in the evening session in Los Angeles on April 19. Utah looks to earn it’s 11th national title this weekend.

Lothrop said she was most proud of her teammates in the regional qualifying meet in Alabama two weeks ago.

“I was really proud of them,” she said. “They’ve been working so hard and battling beam here and there. There were still mistakes, of course, but I think overall, they had so much confidence in the team and everybody who went up was confident in their skills. It didn’t seem that there was as much second-guessing as there used to be.”

FAMILIAR FOES: The evening session features four of last year’s Super Six qualifiers — Utah, Alabama, UCLA and Arkansas. Utah’s 18 Super Six appearances ties the school for the most of any team with Alabama. The Red Rocks are the only program to make every Super Six since 2000.

LOWEST SEED IN HISTORY: Utah heads into this weekend’s national championships as a No. 10 seed. It’s the lowest the Red Rocks have ever been seeded. In 2011, the Utes were seeded No. 8 when they qualified and in 2012 were seeded No. 7.

This team, said co-head coach Megan Marsden, may see that as an advantage.

“We do have a group of sophomores and juniors who’ve been to the national championships, and last year we moved on to the Super Six, and knew there was a chance we might not,” she said. “And I think that group looks back and feels good about that, and the juniors were right there with them. The year before, the group of juniors did the same thing. They kind of surprised everybody and moved on and Florida didn’t. ... I feel like with 10 of our 13 girls having those experiences within the last two years, that has to help them feel at least a positive outlook on championships.”

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