Red Rocks send off seniors with a bang and a perfect 10.0

S-Gym Colby Patterson
Senior Nansy Damianova scores a 10.0 on her last floor routine as a collegiate athlete in the Huntsman Center Saturday night. Photo by Chris Ayers.

Senior Nansy Damianova scores a 10.0 on her last floor routine as a collegiate athlete in the Huntsman Center Saturday night. Photo by Chris Ayers.

Celebrating Senior Night on Saturday at the Huntsman Center, Utah decided it wanted to close its 2014 home season in style.

Hosting No. 6 Georgia, the No. 5 Red Rocks were able to control their emotions and hold off a late Bulldogs rally to win the meet 198.025 – 197.600. They scored a new season high in the process.

“It was fun,” said co-head coach Greg Marsden. “It was a great crowd, and they were really into it.”

That “great crowd” consisted of 15,224 fans who came out in support of Utah’s four seniors — Mary Beth Lofgren, Hailee Hansen, Nansy Damianova and Lia Del Priore. During pre-meet introductions, the four gymnasts walked out with loved ones as four years’ worth of cheering erupted in the arena.

“It’s just unbelievable, the support we get here,” Marsden said. “It’s such an important part of our program … not only on campus, but throughout our community.”

One senior who walked away from the Huntsman Center on top of the world was Damianova. Heading into the final rotation, only .150 separated the two teams. Three routines in, the score was tied.

Becky Tutka then scored a 9.925, and Georgia Dabritz put up a 9.950, setting the stage for Damianova to bring home the victory for the Red Rocks. Not only did she clinch the win for Utah, but she was perfect while doing so, receiving a score of 10.0.

“It felt really great,” Damianova said. “Greg just reminded me to do what I usually do on floor, and I think that really helped. I tend to really try too hard sometimes, and I was able to keep that away and just focus and just have fun … I’ve been waiting for that 10.0 for so long, so it was really emotional to finally get it.”

Damianova’s score pushed the Red Rocks just over the 198 mark, putting Utah in a select group of teams across the nation. Only four other teams have broken that barrier in 2014.

En route to garnering that score, the Red Rocks recorded a season-high score on beam, finishing the event with a 49.500, nearly three-tenths of a point higher than their previous season best. Freshman Baely Rowe started things off with a 9.850, which turned out to be Utah’s lowest score of the rotation. Excitement continued to build as all five gymnasts who followed Rowe nailed their routines.

“Our beam tonight was what we do every day in practice,” said junior Tory Wilson, who scored a 9.925 on the event. “It finally showed out on the competition floor.”

Marsden hopes his gymnasts can use Saturday as a springboard for more consistent performances on beam as the campaign reaches the postseason stage.

“Hopefully we can build off of that,” Marsden said, “Our approach is much better. I think we’re just getting it figured out. We just were approaching that event differently than we were the other three, and now, if you watch the demeanor of the team and watch what’s going on over there, I think it’s just like the other three events.”

The Red Rocks are hoping to use the momentum gained from Saturday’s win in this weekend’s Pac-12 Championships in Berkeley, Calif.

“It’s exciting for us, because [Georgia is] the challenge you want, especially at this point in the season,” Marsden said. “To accomplish what we did tonight, we were able to beat a very good team that was at or near their best.”

g.adams@chronicle.utah.edu