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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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Facing the music

By Tony Pizza

For two weeks, the U gymnastics team has been waiting to add to the momentum it generated against Provo during the final meet of the regular season.

Just one more day stands between the Red Rocks and the chance to do just that.

This weekend the Utes are in Berkeley, Calif., as one of six teams trying to capture the top two spots in the West Regional for the right to go on to Salt Lake City for the NCAA Championships.

Standing in the way of Utah’s chances are two familiar foes and a third team that will be ready to pounce if the Utes don’t come in with their A-game. And the Utes couldn’t be more enthusiastic.

“I’m excited, actually,” Annie DiLuzio said. “I can’t wait.”

For DiLuzio and her five fellow freshman teammates, this will be their first time competing at a Regional meet. With that comes the adjustment of handling the long breaks between events.

“It’s a long day with the byes and everything, both the warm-ups and the competition,” said head coach Greg Marsden. “You’ve got to be careful to stay hydrated and keep a little bit of nutrition in your body. You have to be able to come up and down; you don’t want to wear yourself in those byes.”

The Utes will be on an Olympic rotation — meaning they will start on vault, rotate to bars and then beam, before ending on the floor. Situated in between the Utes’ vault and bars rotation, as well as their beam and floor rotation, will be their byes.

Although the Utes are solid favorites to reach the team’s 26th consecutive NCAA Championships appearance, the Utes cannot afford to take their opposition lightly, which is a trap the team has fallen into this season.

“You can’t take anything for granted,” Nicolle Ford said. “I think we have taken some things for granted, you know, thinking we were an ‘automatic-shoo-in-for-(Nationals)-and-there-was-no-way-we-weren’t-going-to-be-there’ type deal. It took some people a while to realize that we’re not an automatic guarantee and that we do have to work for it.”

The Utes are already well aware of the threat Nebraska poses on their National Championship hopes. Nebraska beat the Utes in convincing fashion in Lincoln, Neb., on March 4. But the Utes had to go without Ford and DiLuzio, who have both been solid contributors to the Utes’ success all season long.

In fact, the Utes enter Saturday’s Regional healthier than they have been all season. The only major injury belongs to Daria Bijak.

Bijak, who was already spending significant portions of the season recovering from knee surgery, hyperextended her knees in a mishap in one of the foam pits at the Red Rocks’ practice facility.

As recently as Monday, Bijak complained of further knee pain, but tests did not reveal significant structural damage and she will be able to participate this weekend.

The Utes could use a healthy lineup if they are going to be one of the top two teams to advance out of Berkeley.

“We just want to get out,” Ford said. “This is not about winning Regionals at all. We just want to be clean enough to make it out of Regionals.”

Although the No. 18 Missouri Tigers enter with an regional qualifying score that is more than a full point lower than the Utes’ score, the Tigers are more than capable of pulling off the upset.

Less than a month ago, the Tigers went into Ann Arbor, Mich., and beat the Michigan Wolverines 196.675-196.100. The Tigers went on to place third at the Big 12 Championships behind Nebraska and No. 10 Oklahoma, with a score of 194.450.

But if Saturday’s meet is anything like the last two weeks of practice for the Utes, even Nebraska will be hard-pressed to keep the Utes from walking away from the West Regional with first place.

“The way we’ve been training, we’ve been a lot more consistent than before,” DiLuzio said. “I think we’re ready.”

If the Utes are able to capture first place, it will likely have a lot to do with the All-American trio of Ford, Kristina Baskett and Ashley Postell.

All three women are ranked in the top-20 in more than one event heading into the Regional competition.

Postell is ranked in the top-20 in all four events and the all-around competition. She ranks fifth on beam, ninth in the all-around, 12th on floor, 19th on bars and 20th on vault.

Ford is ranked fourth on bars, fifth on beam and 14th on all-around.

Baskett is third on bar, fifth in vault and 12th on floor.

As significant as those accomplishments are, the more important thing is that those results help the team.

“It’s always nice to be in that position, but the main thing we all need to focus on is just the team,” Postell said. “There’s going to be more pressure because (Nationals) are here, so that’s something we need to focus on, as well.”

Tyler Cobb

Jamie Deetscreek performs on the bars against ASU earlier this season. The Red Rocks head to Berkeley, CA this weekend to compete in the NCAA Regional tournament. The top two teams will qualify for the NCAA Championships hosted at the Huntsman Center from April 26-28.

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