Gymnastics: Dabritz has a puppy love on vault

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— Chris Ayers

As Georgia Dabritz begins her run on vault she’s calm, she’s focused, she’s thinking about… puppies?

After years of doing skills, the Red Rocks know their bodies know what to do, they just have to get their mind to stop worrying so much.

RELATED: RED ROCKS DISAPPOINTED, STILL GET WIN OVER OSU

“You want to be focused, but you don’t want to be thinking too much, because then the negative thoughts can find a way to sneak in there,” Tory Wilson said.

During Dabrtiz’s freshman year, Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden told Dabritz to think about puppies and blankets to help her clear her mind as she was preparing to vault.

Though she has no idea where Marsden’s idea came from, Dabritz has taken the idea, and well, ran with it.

As she is running, Dabritz makes up a small story to clear her mind — stories that can range from shopping to finding a lovable little pooch.

“They’re stories like, ‘yesterday when I was at the mall and I saw this and I really wanted buy this,’ or ‘I saw this one puppy and I really wanted to buy it.’” Dabrtiz said. “It’s just a random story that I come up with in my head. I am the least creative person too, so they kind of come out of nowhere.”

She used the tactic during her freshmen year, before it faded out over the course of her sophomore and junior seasons. But she has brought it back for her senior campaign and so far it’s been working. Dabritz is ranked second in the nation on vault with a regional qualifying score of 9.945. Oh, and she stuck a perfect 10 against Arizona State.

The other gymnasts have their own ways of keeping their minds off things.

Most of the Red Rocks are singers when they take the beam, but Wilson takes it up a notch by doing a rendition of the ABC’s.

“It’s just one of those tricks that keep your mind distracted,” Wilson said. “If I sing the ABC’s, it keeps my mind busy and my body knows what to do so I just do my routine.”

Kari Lee, like a lot of the Utes, uses words to help her before each skill, but sometimes they aren’t necessarily corrective words.

“On floor, I think I just talk to myself, I don’t really tell a story, but I say things like, ‘stay happy,’ don’t forget to do this,’ ‘smile,’ ‘wink,’” Lee said.

It’s all in an effort to stop the mind and let the muscle memory take over.

“Normally when I think about it too much, I overcorrect it or I just don’t do it normal,” Lee said. “So if I don’t think about it, I just do it normal.”

Not speaking about the beam

Against Oregon State, the Red Rocks may have had some bad flashbacks on beam as two Utes — Tory Wilson and Kari Lee — fell off the apparatus, forcing Utah to count a fall for the first time this season. The Utes though, have decided not to stress too much.

“As a coaching staff, we talked about not really talking much about the beam thing,” Utah head coach Megan Marsden said. “The two people that went down are two of our most consistent performers on beam and they are allowed a mistake.

“We aren’t going to spend a lot of time dwelling on that because we think it will take care of itself with those athletes. They are competitors and I don’t think they’ll dwell on it either if we don’t.”

In the rankings

Utah remained No. 4 this week with an RQS of 197.295. Oklahoma (197.740) remained No. 1 followed by LSU (197.485) and Florida (197.455). The Red Rocks next opponent, Michigan, rounds out the top 5 with a 197.065.

Individually, Dabritz is ranked No. 1 nationally on bars, No. 2 on vault and tied for fifth on floor. Wilson (tied for sixth) and Kailah Delaney (tied for ninth) are also in the top 10 on vault. Wilson is ranked seventh nationally, and first in the Pac-12, in the all-around.

r.miller@chronicle.utah.edu

@millerjryan

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