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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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Red Rocks still like their chances

By Tony Pizza

In 33 years as the head coach of the U gymnastics team, Greg Marsden has experienced just about every coaching challenge he could ask for. Like in 2000, when Utah lost 1999 All-Around National Champion Theresa Kilikowski and beam All-American Shannon Bowles to devastating season-ending injuries, but still managed to finish second at Nationals that year.

The challenge of this year has been getting a team that includes six freshmen ready for the postseason. But those challenges are the thing that keeps Marsden doing what he loves to do.

“(Challenges are) part of the process. Athletics can be a microcosm of life,” Marsden said. “Things aren’t always going to go according to plan, bad things are going to happen at times. Can you keep a smile on your face and make the best of the situation, or do you lay in bed and feel sorry for yourself all day?”

This year, one of the biggest challenges Marsden faces is getting a team with a lot of new faces ready for the Regional. Marsden suggests that the pressure of the do-well-or-go-home situation isn’t the thing his team needs much preparing for — it’s the fact that the Regional and Nationals are just different enough to make a difference.

The Utes are used to warming up for every event before a meet, and then having a chance to go through another warm-up just before they compete on each event. With the six-team format at the Regional, after the teams warm up, it could be another two or three hours before a team actually competes on the event. For that reason, Marsden tries to prepare his team accordingly.

One way to do that is to practice for the delay the Utes will go through when they get to their Regional. The only problem is, practice hasn’t always been a positive experience this year. Just this past Monday, the Utes came out flatter than expected at practice, leading to a bit of concern for Marsden on Tuesday.

But after Marsden spoke to his players on Monday, the team responded with a much better practice the following afternoon.

“We got more accomplished. The effort was good, the results were better,” Marsden said.

Despite the ups and downs the team has gone through this season, and the late introduction of some routine elements that Marsden and the rest of his Red Rocks wanted to have in place long ago, the team is still optimistic about what it can accomplish this year.

The Utes might not be going into the postseason on the roll they might have wanted, but everyone — especially Marsden — feels like this team still has a long way to go before reaching its potential.

“Nobody’s giving up or throwing in the towel or anything like that,” Marsden said. “We all still feel like we can get something done and get something accomplished this year.”

Floor upgrades

It may be a little late in the game, but two U gymnasts — Nicolle Ford and Annie Diluzio in particular — are still working on upgrading their floor routines. DiLuzio is still trying to bring back an Arabian Double Front into the first pass of her floor routine, which she hasn’t done since sitting out two weeks with an Achilles tendon injury.

Ford is still eager to put in an upgrade to the first pass of her floor routine, but what that upgrade will be isn’t exactly clear at this point. Earlier in the season Ford displayed a Double Layout, but it only worked sparingly, and an ankle injury helped put the upgrades on the back burner.

According to Marsden, Ford is working on a Double Pike in place of the Double Layout in her first tumbling pass, which could be upgraded to something else if the Utes can make it out of Berkeley.

Ford’s routine might not have the difficulty she wants, but it is something she is familiar with, and safe isn’t always the worst option when a team faces a do-or-die situation like the Utes will have on their hands April 14.

Notes: Practice is still open to the public. The Utes practice in the Dumke Gymanstics Center just north of the HPER complex and West of the softball fields. Practice starts at 1:30 p.m. today.

Kim Peterson

Daria Bijak performs on the beam last week against BYU in Provo.

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