Gymnastics: Red Rocks having fun

By By Jon Gilbert and By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

Utah gymnastics head coach Greg Marsden is constantly asked to compare last season to this season. Almost every time, he answers with a smile on his face.

Since the team struggled through the 2007 season before rallying to finish second at nationals, Marsden is much more pleased with the cruise control-esque way which his team is gliding through 2008.

The Red Rocks have gradually improved each meet to the point that the team doesn’t have a weak event, Marsden said.

So what do the differences between last season and this season add up to for Utah? More fun. The team ranks second in the nation and is one of only three teams to remain undefeated.

Winning isn’t the only reason the Red Rocks are having fun this year.

“I’ve coached teams in the past where we were winning, but it wasn’t fun,” Marsden said.

Utah went 13-3 through the regular season in 2007, but the wins couldn’t mend the fractures among people. Marsden has said he regretted the structure of his team last year. Then-senior Nicolle Ford was elected captain and everyone immediately delegated leadership responsibilities to her. The gymnasts made Ford their only sense of leadership.

Utah was labeled 2007’s No. 2 team in the country in the preseason but began slipping early. The first three weeks of competition left Utah third nationally. Then the Red Rocks slipped to fourth. Then fifth. Then sixth. Then seventh.

Utah entered nationals as the No. 7 team in the country with plenty to prove, but figured things out in time to make a push for second.

This season, there is no captain. Everyone is held responsible for doing her part and that strategy has decreased the team’s stress level.

“I think the girls are enjoying stuff more now,” Ashley Postell said.

It’s difficult to label what exactly changed from last year to this year.

The team didn’t experience a large overhaul in the offseason that weeded out the bad apples. The two losses were Sarah Shire, who transferred to Missouri, and Ford, who graduated.

The chemistry just didn’t click last year, a problem the gymnasts don’t have to worry about anymore.

“Last year was a very divided team,” Marsden said. “This year is a very together team.”

That togetherness has the group pressuring Georgia for the top spot in the country. The Red Rocks are hitting stride at just the right time, with regionals right around the corner in mid-April.

Utah has four meets left, but the pressure is off. Confidence levels are high. The gymnasts all echo each other in saying that the team’s depth puts them at ease. The meets aren’t riding on any one gymnast’s performance-not even Postell, the nation’s top all-around performer.

“I just try to go out there and do whatever I can and not worry about it too much,” Postell said.

Things seem pretty peachy around the Dumke Gymnastics Center these days. No one seems to be worrying too much about anything.

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