Amy Farnum, NCAA.com

Utah head coach Greg Marsden knew his team was going to be young in 2011. He also knew with the Utes’ incredibly tough schedule, they were going to have to grow up fast.

After losing half of their routines from last year’s NCAA Championship runner-up squad to graduation, there were lots of holes to fill.

“We knew it was a talented group coming in, but you never know how they’re going to transition and handle college in every way – academically, socially, athletically,” said Marsden.

Seven freshmen joined the Utes in the fall, and Marsden concentrated on making that transition to college as smooth as possible. Six of the seven attended the school’s summer bridge program, giving the newcomers an opportunity to bond, and because the upperclassmen had stayed for the summer, each one was assigned a little sister to mentor about the traditions and expectations of the program. Marsden also set up leadership council for the first time, selecting a representative from each class that meets with the coaching staff on a regular basis.

With freshmen performing almost half of the Utes routines this season, the squad is 3-0 despite facing Top 10 opponents UCLA, Georgia and Nebraska.

“We’ve had a better than anticipated start to our season,” said Marsden. “I thought we could be a pretty good team, but I didn’t know how consistent we would be early on. In fact, we’ve been very consistent and have not counted a fall yet this year. We’ve been in a position each meet to not beat ourselves, and when you’re able to do that, usually good things happen.”

Last week, the Utes suffered a huge loss as senior Kyndal Robarts went down with a knee injury in warm-ups before the Nebraska meet. The Utes are now down to nine healthy scholarship gymnasts, and freshmen performed 13 of 24 routines in the win against the Huskers. Robarts, a two-time first-team All-American who is ranked No. 1 on the vault, will be out for at least four weeks.

“It does hurt,” said Marsden. “She’s been a big contributor here since the time she arrived on campus. She anchors on three of four events. She’s reliable in every situation, and her scores are typically big.”

Two of the freshmen that Marsden will rely upon to fill the hole are Mary Beth Lofgren and Corrie Lothrup. Lofgren took over Robarts’ anchor role on the beam, an event she has won twice this season. Lorthrup, who has earned a beam and an all-around title this year, will also be vital to the team as she competes fifth of sixth in every event.

“Other people are going to have to step up,” said Marsden. “One person may not replace her, but if we can eliminate some deductions and everybody gets a little better, we can get through this. Athletics is a great microcosm of life and stuff happens, and sometimes bad stuff happens. You can feel badly about it briefly, but ultimately you have to accept it and refocus and get ready for Friday night.”

No. 4 Utah hosts No. 2 Stanford on Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. MT.

Need to Know
• Florida sophomore Ashanée Dickerson garnered Southeastern Conference Gymnast of the Week honors claiming at least a share of five event titles, becoming the first Gator to accomplish the feat since former All-American Chrissy Van Fleet swept a meet’s titles in 2000. The native of Jacksonville, won the floor exercise (9.95), vault (9.90), balance beam (9.825) outright, and shared the bars title with a 9.80. Dickerson also captured her 10th career all-around title with a 39.475 in the No. 1 Gators’ win at LSU on Jan. 21.

• Southern Utah moved to 3-0 on the season, scoring a season-high 195.750 to defeat Sacramento State in Western Athletic Conference action last weekend. The Thunderbirds, who upset defending NCAA champion UCLA two weeks ago, are currently ranked No. 16 in the nation. Southern Utah continues to climb in the rankings bolstered by the return of 2010 WAC Freshman of the Year Alyssa Click. In her season debut, Click shared the bars title with teammate Ari Lamb against the Hornets after they both scored 9.875s in the event.

Michigan
Michigan

• For the first in 11 tries Iowa upended Big Ten power and No. 7 Michigan, edging the Wolverines 195.375-194.900 on Jan. 22. Senior Rebecca Simbhudas led the way for the Hawkeyes, winning the uneven bars with a career-best 9.900, and placing second on the beam (9.825) and in the all-around competition (39.325). Iowa moved up to No. 15 in the national rankings following the performance, and will now try to claim a road victory at No. 19 Illinois on Jan. 29 in another league match-up.

Quick Hits

• Oklahoma head coach K.J. Kindler notched her 100th career victory as the Sooners topped Texas Women’s University on Jan. 23. Kindler boasts a 100-36-2 record in five seasons at OU. The Sooners (6-0) have won 20 consecutive regular season meets.
• University of Bridgeport sophomore Monica Mesalles led the Purple Knights to a first-place finish at the Rhode Island College Women's Gymnastics Invitational last weekend, claiming the all-around (38.075), floor (9.800) and vault (9.800) titles helping her team sweep the competition’s individual events. Mesalles ranks in the Top 20 nationally on both the floor and vault.
• Freshman Stephanie Ouellette came through for NC State on the final routine of the night, earning a 9.825 on the floor exercise to lift the Wolfpack over EAGL opponent West Virginia for their first win of the season.
• Stanford’s dual victory over UCLA on Jan. 23 extended the Cardinal’s unbeaten streak versus Pac-10 foes at Burnham Pavilion to 31 since January 1998. UCLA has not beaten Stanford at home since 1997. • Georgia freshman Lindsey Cheek continues to make an impact, winning the all-around with a score of 39.550 as the Gym Dogs downed Auburn last weekend. She is tied with three other gymnastics for the top all-around score in the nation.
• Boise State went head-to-head with a Southeastern Conference opponent for the first time in school history, falling to Alabama, 196.325-195.000, but some individual Broncos were very successful against the perennial national contender. Amy Glass notched a career-high with a 39.375 on the all-around, while Hannah Redmon claimed a share of first place on the bars with a season-best 9.875.