Gymnastics: Red Rocks open their season, new era on Friday against BYU

CEA_0114 Emily Juchau

The Utah gymnastics team opens up its 2016 season Friday night against the BYU Cougars in the Huntsman Center.

The Red Rocks finished second at the national championships last season and are expected to contend for the title once more this year. However, with former All-American Georgia Dabritz no longer at the forefront for the team, co-head coach Megan Marsden is counting on her entire squad to step up.

She doesn’t know if someone will be able to fully replace Dabritz, but Marsden hopes there will be a standout among the rest, and frankly, she does not care who it is. What she and new co-head coach Tom Farden expect to see is some battling within the Utah squad.

“Tom and I feel pretty good about the group dynamics,” Marsden said. “It’s a competitive group, and we do think there’s some healthy competition going on right now, jockeying for spots in the lineup. That’s what makes a team strong, to have that push come from underneath, pushing the ones that are in the lineup to stay good if they want to keep their spots.”

The Utes are also without long-time head coach Greg Marsden, who stepped down last season after 40 years of coaching. However, Megan feels as though the transition has been smooth. She and Farden have tried to keep things as routine as possible, and she is confident this year’s team is up to whatever challenges are thrown at them.

“[We] tried to make sure we didn’t rock the boat a lot,” Marsden said. “We have a great recipe for getting teams ready and having great teams at Utah, so we have continued to keep things pretty much the same. The girls have made it clear to us that they think things have gone pretty well.”

After months of preparation, the entire team is ready to go out on the floor, and Marsden thinks this will be a welcome change from what they have been doing since August.

“When you train for several months it starts to get old, and they hear from the coaches a lot on what to fix and what’s wrong,” Marsden said. “I think they’re anxious to get out in front of their fans and hear those fans say, ‘We like what you’re doing.’”

With this week’s challenge being BYU, Marsden is glad this meet will be at home. She loves when her team can use the crowd, typically around 14,000-plus fans, for support, but what it will come down to is focus.

Marsden knows if her team stays clean and has good lines, they can win. However, if they have any or too many falls, things could take a turn for the worse, so she’ll be counting on her team to be ready.

“You put in your time making sure you have routines that are competitive, that are going to beat some of your best opponents, and if you hit your routines, you have the likelihood of beating many of them,” Marsden said. “If you miss routines, you have the chance to lose to anyone.”

Senior Brianna Hughes has taken on a bigger leadership role this season and thinks the beginning of the season is all mental. She and the rest of the Red Rocks have been working on trusting their abilities, so it will be nice to put it to the test Friday night.

“We’re all working on getting a good mental choreography and getting confident in our skills and just building on that everyday,” Hughes said. “When the time comes, we can go into this meet with a set mental routine that we trust in and believe in.”

The meet starts at 6 p.m., and announcements will begin at 5:45 p.m.

k.brenneisen@dailyutahchronicle.com

@kbrenneisen