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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Fallout on floor

By Tony Pizza

The room in the Huntsman Center that holds press interviews for the Red Rocks after every home meet is filled with some of the nicest leather couches money can buy. Any member of the U gymnastics team who has been in there can vouch for that.

Typically, the atmosphere in that room is more upbeat than “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” could be with Robin Williams as a guest. Not even a loss to Florida three weeks ago could dampen the perpetual optimism that the U gymnastics team oozes after every competition.

That is what made Friday night at the Huntsman Center so abnormal. The Utes came away with a convincing win over their oldest gym rival, Arizona State. They also posted their highest three-event total on the night chosen for the Utes to honor departing senior and fan favorite Nicolle Ford.

Yet with all those reasons at hand, there was an overwhelming cloud filling that small room in the Huntsman Center on Friday night that can simply be described as lugubrious.

The first sign that things were not kosher with the team was the 15 extra minutes it took the Utes to make its way to the post-game interview session. At first, this could have been chalked up to a spilling over of the Ford farewell into the locker room, but once the team captain walked into the room, things were clearly not hunky-dory.

The reason for the overall gloom of the team was yet another disappointing meltdown on the team’s final event with a breakthrough of the 197-point mark within grasp. That letdown left head coach Greg Marsden a little more than frustrated during interviews.

“We’re a very talented team that’s underachieving,” Marsden said.

The source of Marsden’s frustration is how his team is practicing and performing on floor.

“We are not physically prepared, we haven’t done (floor routines) in the gym consistently,” Marsden said.

It’s easy to see why Marsden is disappointed in his team’s recent efforts on an event in which the Utes have the ability to be one of the strongest teams in the country.

Since the Utes turned in their season-high 49.275 in their second meet of the season against Washington on Jan. 19, they have broken the 49-point mark just four times in nine tries. Of those four meets, the Red Rocks have only surpassed the 49.10 mark once — a 49.225 mark against Oregon State on March 16. Interestingly, that floor routine was not the Utes’ last event of that meet.

In their last three meets at home — in which the floor is the last event — the Utes’ average has been a paltry 48.576 compared with their 49.319 average on the other three events.

One explanation for the Utes’ problems on floor is the fact that they are introducing so many difficult elements into their floor routines. Ashley Postell has introduced a triple twist into a tumbling pass, Ford has inserted a double layout into her routine and Annie DiLuzio has attempted to fit a double Arabian into one of her tumbling passes.

But after the Utes’ recent floor fizzle, Marsden has vowed to use a different approach on the Red Rocks’ most troublesome event.

“We’re going to start training on floor. If they can’t do it in practice, they’re not going to do it in a meet,” he said.

Ford contends that the Utes’ struggles on the mat are strictly mental, but Marsden couldn’t disagree more.

“It’s physical, because we don’t train — like we’re going to compete it — in practice,” Marsden said. “And so when we come to a meet, we hope we hit it.”

The one question that remains for the Red Rocks is whether there is enough time to put up a performance on floor that will erase the Utes’ doubts.

“I think it would just take one time, but we have to get there first,” Ford said.

The Utes have just one regular-season meet remaining on the schedule this weekend, on the road against BYU, before the team prepares for Regionals on April 14.

“We have one more chance to right the ship before postseason,” Marsden said. “It’s now or never. I wish I could say more, but it simply has come down to put up or shut up.”

Tyler Cobb

The Utah gymnastics team bows down to “Queenie” Nicolle Ford after she finishes her last home floor routine on Friday in the Huntsman Center. The Utes face BYU this Friday in Provo.

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