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Sixth-ranked Utah gymnasts know a win at No. 5 Michigan will be tough

Utah's Breanna Hughes signals to the crowd after competing on the floor as the University of Utah Red Rocks gymnastics team defeats the University of Washington Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Salt Lake City.
Utah's Breanna Hughes signals to the crowd after competing on the floor as the University of Utah Red Rocks gymnastics team defeats the University of Washington Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Salt Lake City.
Tom Smart,

SALT LAKE CITY — With a tough meet facing the sixth-ranked Utah gymnastics team Friday, co-head coach Megan Marsden is taking value in the fact her team is full of youth and not really sure what awaits them when they travel to No. 5 Michigan.

“Eight of my girls don’t know that (Michigan is as tough as anywhere to win) because they are freshman and sophomores,” said Marsden. “We are trying to keep it a secret because sometimes youth is bliss. Beating Michigan is going to be tough, but this group has the mindset they can compete from start to finish.”

Utah is 3-7 in Ann Arbor, though it holds an all-time series lead of 26-13 over the Wolverines. The last win in Crisler Arena came in 2012, but the Red Rocks topped Michigan in both meetings last season — one in Salt Lake City and the other at the NCAA Championships to snap a two-meet losing streak.

Marsden would like a win, but is more focused on Utah getting a sixth-straight score above 197.0. She also knows it would help the Red Rocks' regional qualifying score if her team could top its season high of 197.15. It’s hit the high score twice this year.

“This weekend is like when we went to UCLA,” said Marsden. “We want it close and to make them feel nervous about us on their floor.”

Utah fell to UCLA by the slimmest of margins (197.1-197.075), but Marsden and co-head coach Tom Farden believe the effort showed their team can battle anyone on the road, and heading into the postseason, anyone on a neutral floor.

The Michigan meet will close out Utah’s three-meet road swing. They topped No. 16 Stanford and No. 12 California during the stretch. Utah continues to battle the injury bug as Kailah Delaney will be a meet-time decision as to whether or not she’ll sit out a second-straight week or just go on vault due to a sore knee. Samantha Partyka is also limited for a second-straight meet as she continues to battle a lower leg injury. She’s expected to start on bars and beam.

“Injuries are to be expected this time of year,” said Marsden. “We have been pleased with our subs in the lineups and what they have done, and will continue to rest Kailah and Sam so they are ready for the postseason."

On paper, Utah and Michigan are close as the Wolverines have an RQS of 197.065, while Utah is at 197.02. The Wolverines are led by freshman Olivia Karas, who is tied for fifth in the nation in the all-around.

The meet begins at 5 p.m. MST. After this, Utah will come home to close out the regular season with Senior Day against No. 10 Georgia on March 12.

Across the nation

Oklahoma continues to lead the rankings with a 197.705 RQS, while Florida sits at No. 2 (197.440) and Alabama is third at 197.325. Utah is the Pac-12’s highest ranked team at No. 6 with UCLA right behind at No. 7. Southern Utah is No. 27, BYU is No. 32 and Utah State is No. 33. The top 36 teams qualify for NCAA Regionals.