Once-weak beam now a strength

By Bryan Chouinard, Staff Writer

You would be hard-pressed to say the Utah gymnastics team has had a single bad meet up to this point in the season.

The Red Rocks have dipped below the 196.500 mark only once, and that was in their first meet against UCLA, when Utah finished with a 196.175, its lowest score of the season. In that meet, Utah scored a 49.025 on the balance beam, which wasn’t bad for the first meet of the season. But in the following weeks, the Red Rocks, by their standards, struggled on the apparatus and failed to break the 49.000 mark for two straight weeks.

“The team knows that’s been a weakness of ours, just by looking at scores meet to meet,” said associate head coach and beam specialist Megan Marsden. “We coaches noticed there had been some tentativeness on beam so we’ve been working on it.”

What was a weakness for the Red Rocks early in the year has turned into a valuable strength as they close out the regular season and prepare for the national championships.

The Red Rocks have a total of three scores in the 48.000 range on the beam, none of which have come since Feb. 6. Utah’s problems on the beam early in the season could have been attributed to a number of different things, including it being early in the season. But Kyndal Robarts’ absence from the lineup was also a factor.

Robarts injured her shoulder weeks before the beginning of the season and did not make her season debut until Jan. 30 against Oregon State. In her first routine back, Robarts nailed a 9.875, setting a career high on the event as well as setting the standard on the beam for the meet and the rest of the season.

“(Robarts) on some level is responsible for how we’re doing on beam,” Marsden said. “Having the first person get up there with such confidence gives the rest of the group confidence as well.”

Leading off on the balance beam is no easy task, even for an All-American such as Robarts. The stress that goes along with the lead-off spot is immense, knowing that a fall puts added pressure on every performer who comes after. However, Robarts admits she likes the pressure that comes with leading off.

“It helps that I don’t do bars first,” Robarts said. “It gives me a chance to mentally focus on beam. We also started doing beam routines on the ground before we start warming up and that helps too because it slows down the routine.”

Since her return, Robarts has solidified herself as the lead-off on the event. In doing so, she’s set the tone for Utah on the beam. Utah has scored only one 48.000 since her return and is fresh off setting a new season high against Arizona State8212;49.450.

“We have really focused on trying to fine-tune our skills on (beam),” Robarts said. “We have worked at making practice feel like a meet so every routine we’re doing in the gym is like a routine in a meet, and that’s really helped.”

The coaching staff for Utah has gone so far as to make practice feel more like a meet that there are consequences for balance checks and the routine order mimics that of Friday’s lineups.

Nina Kim, Utah’s anchor on beam and the team’s top performer, has also played a huge role in turning beam from a weakness to a strength for Utah. As any gymnast would tell you, the anchor has just as much pressure as the lead-off does.

“(Kim) has been doing well,” Marsden said. “She’s been doing a really nice job for us and does time and time again, to get up there and do a nice set at the end of the lineup and sometimes she’s done that knowing someone else fell. She’s handled the pressure really well.”

Utah will be challenged on every event by Florida and beam could be pivotal as the Gators managed to beat Utah the last time they visited the Huntsman Center.

Utah will host Florida at the Huntsman Center on Friday at 7 p.m.

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Nate Sorensen

Kyndal Robarts? confidence on the beam helps the gymnasts who follow her. Since she has returned to the lineup, the Red Rocks have only scored below a 48.000 once on beam.