NORMAN, Okla. -- The University of Utah gymnasts overcame a dreadful start to blast into the NCAA championships by placing second at the Norman Regional on Saturday.
Oklahoma won the regional meet with a 197.350, followed by Utah (196.475), Washington (195.300) and North Carolina (195.225).
Utah, which advances to a record 36th-straight NCAA Championships, overcame two big deficits -- one at the start and one at the finish -- to punch its ticket to nationals. After starting the meet with its worst beam score of the year (48.75), the Utes rebounded by forging into second place on floor (49.225) and vault (49.225).
But, while the Utes were in their final bye rotation, Washington charged ahead. Going into the final round, the Huskies led Utah by a formidable 147.450-147.200 advantage.
Utah rocked to a 49.275 on the bars -- its best score of the night.
"We did a workman's job tonight," said Utah coach Greg Marsden, who also cheered after the meet when co-head coach Megan Marsden was named the North Central Regional Coach of the Year.
Freshman Nansy Damianova won two event titles at her first regionals, tying for first on vault with Stephanie McAllister (9.90) and also tying for first on floor (9.90). Freshman Corrie Lothrop was Utah's top all-around finisher, placing third with a 39.225. Senior Jacquelyn Johnson tied for fourth in the all-around.
Up next for the Utes is the NCAA Championships in Cleveland on April 15-17. Utah will learn its preliminary session and rotational draw today.
Five Utah State competitors: seniors Jackie Dillon and Lyndsie Boone along with freshman Rachel Vaske in the all-around, junior Nicole Simoneau on both bars and beam, and freshman Paige Jones on both vault and floor, ended their season Saturday at Denver. BYU finished sixth at the Denver Regional.