Gymnastics: Fending off the injury bug

By By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

Utah isn’t as healthy as it would like heading into the North Central Regional Championship on Saturday.

“We’re more beat up here at the end of the season,” Utah head coach Greg Marsden said.

The biggest concern for the Red Rocks in regard to injury belongs to junior Nina Kim. Kim rolled her ankle near the end of practice last Friday rehearsing her leap sequences on floor.

Kim returned to the all-around lineup for Utah earlier this season and has hit 25 of 26 routines.

She spent the weekend on crutches and was still using one crutch Monday morning, Marsden said. He was pleasantly surprised to see her jogging around the mats at practice that afternoon. Kim even trained some on the bars and beam.

However, Marsden still doesn’t think she will compete at regionals to make sure she doesn’t get banged up any worse.

“I’m more optimistic about her being ready to help us at championships,” Marsden said.

Kim will have plenty of time to heal up if the Red Rocks qualify for nationals as it is not held until April 24 in Athens, Ga. To qualify, Utah will need to place in the top two on Saturday.

Annie DiLuzio’s shins are still hurting, which kept her from tumbling on Monday. Jessica Duke and Stephanie Neff both have sore backs. Daria Bijak is still recovering from a hyper-extended knee she suffered against BYU on March 28. Kristina Baskett is trying to strengthen her ankle, which has given her problems all season.

Duke has been training on bars last week and this week but hasn’t practiced any other event. She said her back hurts sometimes when she releases because it arches. She said she felt OK to begin training in other events this week but is going to wait until after regionals, so that she will be in the best possible shape for nationals if Utah qualifies.

“At this point, a lot of people can compete without training,” Duke said.

Marsden has kept training light, stressing light landings. The team practiced the vault into a foam pit on Monday to avoid hard impact.

With Kim most likely out of all four events, Marsden has some switching around to do to fill holes in the lineup. Marsden said he won’t have much trouble finding a replacement for Kim on the floor.

“Vault and beam is where it really hurts us,” he said.

Beth Rizzo will take Kim’s place in the vault rotation. Rizzo competed the vault twice for Utah in the regular season, scoring a career-high 9.80 against Utah State and Southern Utah on Feb. 22. On beam, freshman Kyndal Robarts will get her chance to perform. She has earned scores of 9.80 or higher three times this season in the event.

The emergence of freshman Gael Mackie will alleviate concerns for Utah on the uneven bars.

“She really has come in and helped us on an event we were relatively thin on,” Marsden said.

Arriving just in time for the Red Rocks Preview on Jan. 4, Mackie was not expected to make a substantial contribution this season. Still, she has been called up to perform on the bars for Utah in its past seven meets and has not scored below a 9.775.

She is also slated as the alternate on vault for Saturday. Marsden said her vaulting was great on Monday, and if the meet were Tuesday, she might have been a starter.

Utah has some injuries to work around, but all in all, Marsden said he is confident in the replacements he has available.

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