Red Rocks don’t plan to settle again

By Paige Fieldsted, Sports Editor

Being runner-up is never easy, but being runner-up year after year is even more difficult.
After having placed second or third at the National Championships for the past five years, the Utah gymnastics team is ready to be back on top.

“We are working to win a championship,” said head coach Greg Marsden. “When you fall short, it’s a disappointment, but you have to put it in perspective and appreciate all the things you did accomplish. We wanted to win, but we’re proud of what we’ve done.”

Although the Utes have been among the top teams in gymnastics the past several years, the nature of gymnastics makes it difficult to determine exactly what is needed to push them over the edge and clinch the championship.

“We are hanging right there within a few tenths of a point,” said Megan Marsden, who was recently named co-head coach. “It’s very difficult to decide where that is going to come from with the judging because it’s very subjective and makes it hard to determine what it is going to take to win.”

Modeled after Georgia, the now five-time defending national champions, the Red Rocks know a star athlete is one element needed to make it to the top8212;something they will be looking for as they prepare for the season ahead.

After losing stars Nina Kim and Kristina Baskett, Utah is looking to some young athletes to step up and fill their places.

“It is the nature of college athletics that they are here for four years and move on to the real world and people have to step up,” Greg Marsden said. “We have talented athletes and it is their time to do that now. How successful we are is dependent on how willing they are to step up.”

Seniors Daria Bijak, Annie DiLuzio and Jamie Deetscreek are just a few of the athletes the coaching staff is hoping will step up and lead the team back to a national championship.

“Often the seniors are leaders, but it is amazing how many times we have people sitting in the shadows that step up to the plate,” Megan Marsden said. “I am hoping that there are some people that are waiting to give it everything they have for their team.”

The coaching staff is also hoping to get big-time performances out of younger students and incoming freshman.

Katelyn Mohr and Meg Whitney will be expected to contribute from the get-go.

“Katelyn is a former elite athlete with a lot of experience,” Greg Marsden said. “Meg is someone who has come on strong the past few years, and she could just blossom in college and those four years be the best of her career. Both are capable of contributing right away.”

Getting new athletes to mesh with the older members of the team to create a team atmosphere is something Utah will be working on in preparation for the season.

“We know what works for training and preparing athletes for the season,” Megan Marsden said. “But we are always dealing with new group dynamics and the sooner you can figure out what works for the group, the better you will be prepared for the season.”

Despite changes to the line-up and coaching staff, one thing that won’t be changing for the Red Rocks is their challenging schedule, as once again the team will be facing top teams in the nation early in the season.

The Utes open the season with a meet at powerhouse UCLA, before returning home to take on Iowa State and nemesis Georgia.

Throughout the season, Utah will also face Arizona State, Michigan, BYU, Nebraska and Florida, teams that are regulars at the national championships.

“I always do this to us,” Greg Marsden said. “We have one of the toughest schedules in the nation. We start off with a bang and I’m excited.”

Another thing the Utes are looking forward to is entertaining the large following of fans they have accumulated during the years.

“We are preparing the girls to give our audience the show they deserve; they continue to come to our arena by the thousands and it is a thrill for them to see a new group come together and see new athletes emerge,” Megan Marsden said.

Having already sold 5,858 season tickets so far, the Red Rocks are on their way to another record-breaking season.

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