Red Rocks preview season Friday night

After more than seven months of waiting, Ute gymnastics fans get their first look at the 2006 version of a team that finished third at the NCAA Championships last year and has won 10 national titles in the 31-year reign of head coach Greg Marsden.

“We had a great year last year, and we felt good about what we did, but we were hoping for more than third,” Marsden said. “We’re looking forward to starting the season.”

A perennial contender, expectations are understandably high for this season, and Friday night’s Red Rocks Preview (7 p.m. at the Huntsman Center) marks the first chance for anxious fans to see the U’s three talented freshman recruits in action and catch up with the 10 returning letter winners from last season.

Washington’s Kristina Baskett headlines the incoming class.

The 2005 USA Junior Olympic all-around, floor exercise and vault champion is expected to be a big performer for the Utes immediately.

Freshmen Beth Rizzo and Nina Kim are also highly touted recruits.

The team will perform exhibition routines on all four events, though Marsden says it won’t quite go at full tilt.

“They’ll do the basic core of their routines,” Marsden said. “Obviously we don’t want anybody getting injured. We’ll cut a few of the tougher dismounts.”

“We’re going to split into two teams to simulate a meet. It’s usually a lot of fun. The event is a lot more relaxed than usual, and it’s a nice way to meet the fans.”

Admission is free. Fans will receive a 2006 poster and have the opportunity to meet the squad for autographs and photos.

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