SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah gymnastics team will host an NCAA regional on April 2. (6 p.m. MDT). The fifth-ranked Red Rocks have a favorable regional with Pac-12 foes No. 8 UCLA and No. 17 Washington joining them, as well as instate teams No. 23 Southern Utah and No. 32 Utah State. Illinois, ranked No. 29, rounds out the group of six.
“What I love is that we have not only UCLA, who is rival, coming but also two other instate teams coming to this regional,” said Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden. “I think this is really going to help our attendance and make sure our arena is full. My athletes do best when the Huntsman Center is rocking.”
Utah will have to contain that excitement some as it sits through a bye during the first rotation before opening on bars. After bars, the rotation is beam, bye, floor and vault. Bars is one of Utah’s better events and more conducive to the excitement of the postseason than beam, which Utah had to start on last week.
The Red Rocks watched two gymnasts fall on beam at the Pac-12 championship, which ultimately put them in a hole that even three solid closing events couldn’t dig them out of. Utah finished tied for second with Oregon State. UCLA took home the title.
Utah senior Kassandra Lopez admits the team wants to best the Bruins after dropping both outings to their rival this season.
“Yeah, we are after them, definitely,” said Lopez. “It just comes down to us. We shot ourselves in the foot on beam. We are a good beam team and have shown that throughout the season. But on a big stage, we need to be able to control our nerves and handle that pressure.”
Utah won the last regional it hosted in 2012. The top two teams will advance to the NCAA championships in Forth Worth, Texas, April 15-16.
Southern Utah will also open on a bye before going to floor. It follows with vault, bye, bars and beam.
“All day long I would rather start on a bye than finish on a bye,” said SUU coach Scott Bauman. “I like this rotation because a bye helps settle the nerves and gives you time to get into the meet.”
The Thunderbirds are coming off a school-record tying 196.575 in their second-place finish at the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Championship (MRGC) meet last weekend.
Fourth-seeded Southern Utah will be joined by fellow MRGC team Utah State. The Aggies have the following draw: vault, bye, bars, beam, bye and floor. Utah State enters the meet as the sixth seed and is making its third straight regional, something the program hadn’t done since it appeared in 17 straight regionals between 1986-2002.
BYU is headed to Minneapolis for its regional. The No. 31 Cougars will battle No. 2 Florida, No. 11 Denver, No. 16 Minnesota, No. 20 Missouri and No. 28 Ohio State. BYU will follow the same rotation as Utah State, starting on vault.