Seated at No. 4 in the national rankings, the University of Utah gymnastics team will head to the NCAA Fayetteville Regional in Arkansas as its top seed on Saturday, April 1.
The Red Rocks will compete against No. 9 Denver, No. 16 California, No. 21 Auburn, Arkansas and Central Michigan, and the two teams with the highest scores will move on to the NCAA National Championships in St. Louis, Mo. on April 14-15.
Looking ahead to this weekend’s meet, co-head coach Megan Marsden’s main focus for the team is to stay on its mission of hitting 24-of-24 routines. Although the Red Rocks had solid performances at the Pac-12 Championships, Marsden said her team still struggled to complete that goal.
“Thankfully you can throw a score out and we were able to do that in a couple of places that made it so it didn’t hurt us too bad,” Marsden said. “But Tom [Farden] and I both know that our ultimate competition and scoring potential for Utah lies within being able to build one routine upon another, which takes everyone hitting.”
The Red Rocks will be aiming to qualify for their 42nd-consecutive national championship. Out of the 41 times the Red Rocks have made it to a regional, they have won 29 times, and they came in second the remaining 12.
Fortunately for junior Tiffani Lewis, the pressure of moving onto nationals doesn’t phase her, because she just sees Saturday’s meet as any other meet.
Lewis and the Red Rocks are keeping the same mentality they have had all season long. Because of that, they are expecting the same type of results, but Lewis feels there is still room to improve and hone in on the team’s skills.
“The past couple of weeks, we have really been working on handstands and sticking,” Lewis said. “I think we just need to keep touching up on those things, and they will help us a lot.”
With six teams competing in the Barnhill Arena, each team will be given two byes in its rotation. For the Red Rocks, they will begin the meet on bars and beam, take a bye and then finish the competition on floor and vault, and they will end with another bye.
This is the fifth time the team has started on bars this season, and it won’t need as much time to adjust to a new order, but no matter where the Red Rocks start Marsden has only thing one her mind.
“All we can focus on is what we need to do,” Marsden said. “I do think this team has positioned themselves to be a contender on any arena floor, but the only way to do that is if we are hitting the routines and that is what we can control.”
The meet is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. MT.