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December 8, 2012

Young red rocks debut

Utah's fifth ranked gymnastics team put on its annual preview Friday night at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in front of a small-by-normal-standards 3,700 fans.

The annual event is an opportunity for fans to get an early look at the squad, but also provides the team with a chance to walk through a meet-day type situation roughly one month prior to the open of their 2013 season, which opens on January 12 at UCLA, followed by a home meet on January 19 versus Oregon State.

The squad divided into two teams: Utah and Utes and followed a regular meet-type format, but which did not include judging or scores.

Head gymnastics coach Greg Marsden had enjoyed a string of well-balanced recruiting classes in the recent past, which netted him consecutive years of solid candidates for the all-around competition versus gymnasts specializing in just one or two events.

This season, only junior Corrie Lothrop returns as an all-around competitor as the Utes lost key seniors in Cortni Beers, Kyndal Robarts and Stephanie McAllister this season, leaving large gaps in need of filling for the 2013 Utes.

On a squad with no seniors and five juniors, this season affords huge opportunities for the young Ute gymnasts to step up and play a prominent role. Friday's event represented one more chance to prove themselves worthy of a spot on the all-around roster, this time in front of a live crowd.

The laid-back event saw three sophomores put in strong performances on all four apparatus, as Mary Beth Lofgren, Georgia Dabritz and Kassandra Lopez perhaps began the ascension into prominent roles as underclassmen.

Freshman Breanna Hughes debut-ed on two events; bars and beam while Haley Lange got her chance on beam and both showed strongly enough both in practices and Friday's preview to remain in the discussion to make the five person rotation in their respective event(s).

"I will rely heavily on them this season, yes. I think I will need both of them on beam, so their roles this season may not be large, but they will be critical," said Co-Head Coach Megan Marsden said of the two freshmen following the event.

While the performances on the whole weren't as clean or concise as one would want, Marsden was very pleased with the way the evening played out, overall.

"There were certainly some things out there that weren't perfect that we'll need to clean up, and we'll find other things that weren't so obvious tonight on film later," Marsden assured. "We've come a long way since August, a very long way. Tonight I think we found out that we're actually further ahead than we thought we were, despite some of the obvious things that need cleaning up. In that way, it was a good night, a productive night and a fun one."

Utah's third freshman Taylor Allex did not participate due to an injury, as was the case for sophomore Kailah Delaney.


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