Gymnastics: Red Rocks gear up for challenging finish

By By Jon Gilbert and By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

There comes a point when a team finds out exactly what it is and what it is made of. That time might be here for the U gymnastics team.

Utah (9-0) kicks off a tough final stretch of the season tonight when No. 7 Oregon State (9-2) visits the Huntsman Center.

Tonight’s meet commences a four-meet stretch that includes visits to No. 3 Florida and No. 4 Michigan and culminates with a home meet against BYU on March 28. After sailing through the first two-thirds of the year, Utah will buckle down for the last third.

The team will use the upcoming grind to prepare for regionals and nationals.

“We certainly have the challenging part of our season ahead of us,” Utah head coach Greg Marsden said.

Adding to the challenge are injury woes. Utah has managed to stay healthy for most of the season, but bumps and bruises are catching up to the team.

Kyndal Robarts is likely to compete in tonight’s meet after sitting out two weeks ago against UCLA with a sore knee.

Nina Kim’s sprained foot is healed, and she will likely see her name in the starting rotation. However, she and Daria Bijak have been sick for the majority of the past two weeks.

“Both are feeling much better but still not 100 percent,” Marsden said.

Stephanie Neff is as healthy as she has been in weeks. The sophomore has been nursing an Achilles’ injury she suffered in practice leading up to Utah’s first meet against BYU. She has been tumbling on soft surfaces but will most likely sit out at least one more meet. Jacquelyn Johnson will likely miss the rest of the season with a broken metatarsal.

The Utes will utilize the best lineups they can muster in the coming weeks. The Red Rocks are focused on tonight’s meet but know they have two giant road struggles ahead against Super Six-regulars Florida and Michigan.

“Both are very difficult places to compete at,” Marsden said. “Always when you’re on someone else’s floor, it’s a challenge.”

Because this portion of the season is so challenging, it also serves as an opportunity to find out where Utah stands with more of the nation’s top competition. With wins over No. 1 Georgia, No. 16 Nebraska and No. 20 Arizona State, Utah has affirmed its role as an elite program. Performing well against three teams that are likely Super Six-bound would bolster the team’s résumé even further.

However, Oregon State will not lie down on the mats tonight.

The Beavers have spent the season climbing the rankings and warrant plenty of respect. Nevertheless, they haven’t fared well in Salt Lake City over the years. The Utes own a home advantage of 27-0 against the Beavers.

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