The No. 6-ranked, defending Pac-12 champion Red Rocks open their 40th season at rival BYU on tonight at 7 p.m. MT. (The meet will broadcast live on BYUtv.) It's not even fair to call this a rivalry (in-state or otherwise), as Utah holds a 91-2 advantage all-time against BYU. However, the two losses did come in Provo, where the Utes have a 25-2 record, stumbling in 1994 and 1998.
As is usual for the Utah gymnastics program, the Red Rocks enter this meet ranked in the Top 10 in the preseason coaches poll for the 25th straight time (every year since the poll began in 1991). The Red Rocks received one first place vote and are the second highest ranked team in the Pac-12 after No. 5 UCLA. (Utah was voted No. 1 in a preseason poll by the conference coaches, with UCLA coming in second.)
The Red Rocks are once again led by co-head coaches Greg and Megan Marsden. Greg has been Utah's coach since their first year and is the all-time winningest gymnastics coach with a 1,018-205-7 record. His wife, Megan, is in her sixth year as co-head coach and has been on staff for 31 years. They shared the 2014 Pac-12 Coach of the Year award. Last season, Greg became the first college gymnastics coach to ever reach 1,000 wins.
Utah faces a BYU squad that failed to make NCAA regionals last season and are not ranked in the preseason this year. Head coach Brad Cattermole is in his 27th season coaching BYU. Only three of BYU's 21 gymnasts are seniors, and the squad does not feature an All-American.
While it may seem like a sure win for the Red Rocks, the first meet of the season can be tricky, so they cannot go into the meet cocky. Gymnastics won the first Pac-12 title for a Utah sports team last season. The season was not without its disappointments, however, with Utah failing to make the Super Six at the NCAA Championships after winning their regional. Utah also missed the Super Six at the 2013 NCAAs. Utah, a program with 10 national titles, measures the success of a season with post season performance, not conference titles. Missing the Super Six is seen as a failure for the Red Rocks. With strong senior leadership and a great freshman class, the Red Rocks look to defend their Pac-12 title this season and return to the Super Six at the NCAA Tournament.
Nine letterwinners and six All-Americans return this season for the Red Rocks. They will be led by a strong senior class. All four seniors are All-Americans. In addition, thereof the seniors are Pac-12 champions: two all-around champions in Tory Wilson (who was also Pac-12 Gymnast of the year) and Corrie Lothrop, as well as Georgia Dabritz, the 2014 Pac-12 Specialist of the Year and four-time Pac-12 event champion. Utah also added a strong freshman class with three Junior Olympic champions: Kari Lee, Samantha Partyka, and Maddie Stover. Lee (vault, beam, and floor) and Stover (beam) are both scheduled to start against BYU. Getting new talent on the beam could be key for the Red Rocks this season since the beam has been their toughest event in recent years.
"We are ready to get the season started," Greg Marsden said. "You never have a truly accurate gauge of how prepared you are until you actually take the floor for the first competition of the season, but we like what we're seeing in the gym. We had a lot of trouble drawing up a lineup because of our depth on several events, which is a good thing. I anticipate there will be battles for some positions for much, if not all, of the season."
Utah's first home meet will be Friday, Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. MT against No. 19 Boise State, Southern Utah, and UC Davis.