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Utah Utes gymnastics wins NCAA Regional, advances to NCAA Championships

What the Utah Utes gymnastics team needed on Saturday, April 5 was what it got at the NCAA Regional in Fayetteville, Ark.

Host Arkansas was a factor early -- as were the Pac-12 rival UCLA Bruins -- but the No. 1 seeded Utes came on late to post a 197.3 overall score to win the NCAA Regional and qualify for the NCAA Championships later this month.

Utah did not clinch this meet early on, however. After struggling so much on bars and the vault in their first two events in Fayetteville -- a surprise considering the Utes are ranked No. 1 in the country on vault -- Utah held steady on the other two apparatus.

Arkansas and UCLA may have roared ahead of Utah -- but big performances from all six Utes on balance beam and Nansy Damianova’s 9.95 floor routine sealed the victory.

"The leg events are our strongest events," Utah coach Greg Marsden said in the post-meet press conference. "We looked forward to this rotation (bars, beam, floor, vault). The biggest surprise was that we looked nervous on bars to start the meet. We didn't make any big mistakes, but we weren't sharp."

Utah will now contend at its 39th straight national championship event with UCLA -- whom it defeated Saturday -- along with Florida, Penn State, Alabama and Nebraska.

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