Luck of the draw

By By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

It’s not that the U gymnastics team means any disrespect toward the five other teams in its NCAA National Championship preliminary meet, but the Utes feel pretty good about their draw.

With the Utes competing in the evening session and the two best teams in the country competing in the afternoon session, who could blame them?

“We know that Florida and Georgia are some of our toughest competition. We’ve already experienced that this year,” Nicolle Ford said. “They’re very good teams and they’ve been a threat to us all year.”

As soon as the Utes qualified for Nationals, they were guaranteed a spot in the evening session. Their opponents, however, were decided at random.

The rest of the field was drawn at random, with each preliminary round getting three teams that finished first in their respective Regional meet, and three Regional runner-ups making up the other three teams in each six-team prelim.

“We got way lucky; something’s on our side,” Ford said. “I’m hoping that it’s a sign of more to come. We’re way happy with the draw.”

Joining Utah as No. 1 seeds in the evening prelim are UCLA and Stanford, who scored 195.975 and 196.60, respectively, in their Regional competitions. The No. 2 seeds in the evening prelim session will be Michigan, LSU and Denver.

No. 1 seeds Florida, Georgia and Alabama will headline the ultra-competitive afternoon session. Coincidently, the three SEC powerhouses also made up the top three spots in the national rankings going into last week’s Regional.

Another reason Utah is pleased with its draw is its record against teams in each session.

This season, the Utes are 2-3 against teams in the afternoon session, with regular-season losses coming at the hands of Florida, Georgia and Nebraska. The two wins for Utah came against Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore., and against Nebraska at the West Regional.

In the evening session, Utah holds a 2-0 regular-season record, with both wins coming at home over Michigan and UCLA.

The top three teams from each preliminary session will advance to the final night of the NCAA Championships, in a meet commonly referred to as the Super Six.

The Utes have failed to make the Super Six twice — with the first incident occurring in Gainesville, Fla., in 1997 and the second time two years later in 1999 in Salt Lake City.

Lennie Mahler

Utah hopes to make it into the Super Six of the NCAA National Championship. Preliminaries start next Thursday.