Gymnastics: Utes prep mentally for nationals

The Red Rocks look to the scoreboard during a meet March 1 in Provo. The Red Rocks begin their quest for a national title tonight in Los Angeles. Karina Puikkonen / The Daily Utah Chronicle
The Red Rocks look to the scoreboard during a meet March 1 in Provo. The Red Rocks begin their quest for a national title tonight in Los
Angeles.
Karina Puikkonen / The Daily Utah Chronicle

PRESSURE’S ON The Utes hope to maintain a positive mindset against top teams UCLA and Alabama to advance to the Super Six

The Utes will end their season this weekend in the same venue they started it in: Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus. Utah faced steep odds when it went up against the Bruins on Jan. 12, and the odds look to be steep for the Utes again in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships.
If the No. 10 Utah gymnasts hope to advance to the Super Six for the 14th straight year, they will have to finish in the top three in their semifinal meet tonight. The problem: Utah will be on the floor with No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Alabama, No. 6 UCLA, No. 7 Michigan and No. 11 Arkansas.
The uphill battle will be more difficult because Alabama beat Utah by a whole point at regionals, and the Utes have lost to UCLA twice this season — once in the season opener and again at the Pac-12 Championships.
But instead of fretting about their poor track record against the upcoming competition, the Utes are relishing the opportunity to face Alabama and UCLA again.
“There’s always pressure to be at nationals, but once you’re there, the pressure is off. It’s just to have fun,” said co-head coach Megan Marsden. “It’s a kind of reward for a long season, so I think we’re just excited to go there and finish out the season.”
While Utah hopes to finish on a strong note, its inconsistency throughout the season is a major question mark. Much of that inconsistency has come as the young team has faced tough situations during postseason meets. While Marsden has praised her team’s improvements during the course of the year, she knows they have one more step to take if they want to advance to the Super Six on Saturday.
“The one thing that they’ve struggled with a little bit as of late is putting it on automatic and just flipping and twisting and loving gymnastics,” she said. “In meets, they sometimes get a little too worried about outcomes, worried about being perfect and it sometimes makes it so they have a little hiccup … I’m hoping that at this point in the year — with not much else to do — that they will kind of let it go and put it on automatic.”
Sophomore all-arounder Georgia Dabritz has been a prime example of making things automatic on three events, but she hasn’t been able to nail down her beam routine. Because of that she will be changing her dismount on the apparatus. Though the dismount is more difficult, Marsden said it has been better for Dabritz.
Dabritz said the fact she’s been to nationals before is comforting, and she believes her team is peaking at the right time to make a run at Utah’s first national championship since 1995.
Like Lofgren, Marsden is hoping her gymnasts don’t let themselves feel too much pressure but that they can go out there to compete.
“They seem to be loose and upbeat,” she said of the team’s mindset going into the weekend. “I think they’re really excited about nationals. I think they’re excited that they qualified. Regionals was more of the pressure cooker in their minds and now it’s icing on the cake, and I think that will be helpful for a group that’s working on their mental approach.”