Balancing act

By By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

On paper, Friday night’s meet between Utah State and Utah doesn’t exactly scream excitement.

The Red Rocks haven’t lost to the Aggies since the United States boycotted the XXII Summer Olympics in 1980 and Jimmy Carter was president. Though Greg Marsden has repeatedly explained that no opponent can be taken “lightly,” the fact remains that the Aggies are, without question, the least imposing opponent on the Red Rocks’ 2007 schedule.

This, however, doesn’t mean the Utah State meet is any less important to the Utes. Major questions still loom for the team, especially on beam, and head coach Greg Marsden has devised an interesting approach to solving them.

In practice Monday, Marsden announced to his gymnasts that they would be competing for spots in the beam lineup against the Aggies. Any significant stammers or falls disqualified a gymnast from the lineup, and when the remaining gymnasts were finally whittled down to six, Marsden had his lineup.

In the end, no big changes to the lineup were made, except for the fact that Jamie Deetscreek will be making her first collegiate start in place of Kristina Baskett.

“It’s just a coach’s way of trying to send a message, and we’ll see how people do,” Marsden said. “I haven’t lost confidence in Kristina?but she took herself out.”

Marsden stressed that Baskett’s absence from the beam lineup does not reflect her inconsistency on the event, but that she fell, while Deetscreek performed her beam audition solidly.

“I’m really excited,” Deetscreek said. “It was really fulfilling to hit routines when we all had to, to get in the lineup.”

Other small changes in the lineup could include another beam and floor appearance by freshman Daria Bijak. Although the German National Champion would only do these routines in exhibition, this is evidence that one of Utah’s most exciting recruits is getting closer to lending a big hand to her team.

One gymnast who hopes to start making the impact that she did last year is Ashley Postell.

Although Postell hasn’t quite figured out exactly why she has gone through a rash of inconsistency in the early part of the season, she knows that she is just one solid meet away from regaining the confidence that has helped her to a second-place finish in the All-Around at Nationals last year.

The less intense atmosphere of a meet against Utah State could be exactly what the 11-time All-American needs to get herself back in the groove for the remainder of the season.

A meet against Utah State seems like a perfect opportunity for the Utes to go out and calmly hit routines the way of which each gymnast is capable, and it will likely be the last time they have such an opportunity.

Not only do Utah’s scores after the Utah State meet start counting toward qualifying for Regionals, but the Utes will have to start putting together a better overall performance if they hope to contend with the caliber of teams on the horizon.

After the Utes travel to Logan, they will face only top-25 opponents, including four straight meets against top-10 teams. Marsden’s hope is that his team will be able to step up their performance when they need to.

“I think Georgia is Georgia; I can’t imagine how we wouldn’t be up for that meet,” Marsden said. “We’re still working on things and trying to get better. We’ve got to resolve some things or we might not be able to hang with them.”

That journey toward improvement will begin with the Utes needing to rise above their competition’s level Friday, and proving to themselves that they have what it takes to keep their No. 4 national ranking.

Notes: Freshman Stephanie Neff was tested for mononucleosis, commonly known as mono, after trainer Tom Iriye found the area around Neff’s spleen to be particularly sensitive. Combined with Neff’s flu-like symptoms, Neff’s blood was drawn and results are pending. This is just one of a laundry list of setbacks the freshman has experienced since joining the Utes. Greg Marsden said he is contemplating putting in an appeal for a medical exemption so that Neff doesn’t lose a year of eligibility just because she did one exhibition bar routine in last week’s quad meet.

Kim Peterson