Tidd out for nationals

The U gymnastics team has been training all week in preparation for its 29th consecutive national championship appearance, and 24th straight at the NCAA Championships. This year’s meet takes place at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, and will begin at 1 p.m. on Thursday, April 15, with the first of two qualifying sessions.

The Utes do not begin performing until 7 p.m., as a blind draw placed them in the evening session along with UCLA, Arizona State, Alabama, LSU, and Michigan. The six teams in the evening session have combined for 17 of the last 22 NCAA titles, with Utah claiming nine and Alabama and UCLA each collecting four.

The Utes also have to contend with the only team to defeat them this season in the Michigan Wolverines, and an Arizona State team that they narrowly defeated in Tempe, Ariz.

For the Red Rocks to advance to the Super Six team finals on Friday night, they will have to finish third or better in their session. The Utes go into the session with the best NCAA regional score out of all 12 teams, but Ute head coach Greg Marsden doesn’t feel that carries much water.

“Every region is scored a little differently, so it’s difficult and a little dangerous to compare scores from different meets,” Marsden said. “The difference between us and the next team was only a tenth of a point, and it’s impossible to assume that the judging is the same down to a tenth of a point, especially with one meet in Arizona and others across the country.”

A Huge Blow

The Utes will be without freshman phenom Rachel Tidd for the final competition of the season, as she was recently diagnosed with mononucleosis and an enlarged spleen.

“The timing of this couldn’t be worse,” Marsden said. “We’re obviously a much better team with her than without her, so our task just got much more difficult.”

Tidd felt the symptoms before regionals and pulled out of the floor exercise as a result. But she stayed in and gutted out three events, including the vault, which she won with a score of 9.950.

The Red Rocks have a very deep team, so Tidd has capable replacements: Freshman Stephanie Lim will vault, sophomore Kristen Riffanacht will perform on bars, sophomore Gabriel Onodi will compete on the balance beam, and freshman Nicolle Ford will take Tidd’s place on the floor exercise. However, Marsden was more upset about Tidd’s season coming to such an unfortunate end.

“I feel really bad for Rachel,” Marsden said. “She’s from the L.A. area so she had a lot of people going to see her, and she was in such a good place in terms of her consistency before she got sick.”

Marsden’s sentiment was echoed by the entire team, but they aren’t going to let it ruin their confidence going into nationals.

“The rest of us have to move on,” Marsden said. “We don’t have the luxury of feeling sorry for ourselves. We’ve been through this before, and right now we can’t afford to be anything but positive.”

Milestone for Marsden

Should the Utes qualify for the Super Six Team Finals, it would make Marsden the first coach in college gymnastics to amass 800 wins. In 29 seasons at Utah, Marsden has won 10 national titles (9 NCAA), and he has a record of 798-131-5. Under Marsden, the Utes have never finished lower than 10th in the country.

Although these numbers make Marsden by far the most successful coach in the history of collegiate gymnastics, he isn’t one to dwell on his success.

“To be honest, I had completely forgotten about it,” Marsden said. “I coach meet to meet so I don’t really have time to dwell on the statistics. Maybe when I’m 80 I’ll look back and it will mean something, but right now I don’t feel anything about it.”

Ute Perfection

Three Utes have hit all of their routines this year: Riffanacht (29 29), fellow sophomore Natalie Nicoloff (13-13), and junior Gritt Hofmann (9-9).

Eberle had been a perfect 37-37 up until her last routine in regionals where she fell off the uneven bars twice. One such fall nearly resulted in a serious injury as Eberle peeled off the high bar and somersaulted 1 1/2 times before landing on her back.

“I don’t think a fall is ever a good thing, but in this case, I don’t think it’s all bad,” Marsden said. “I think [Eberle] was tying to go all season without falling, and now that that’s off her plate, she seems a lot more relaxed.”

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