Alabama won the semifinal with a 197.350, followed by Oklahoma (197.200) and UCLA (197.200), Michigan (196.850), Utah (196.200) and Arkansas (196.150).
Including scores from the afternoon semifinal, Utah will finish in ninth place overall. It is the program’s worst finish at a national championships since 1977, when Utah also placed ninth. Ironically, the Utes went into the beam on a roll, fresh off their second-best bar score ever at an NCAA Championships. Three Utes had three of the event’s top five finishers, with Georgia Dabritz (9.95) tying for first, Nansy Damianova (9.925) tying for third and Hailee Hansen (9.90) tying for fifth.
Not only a berth in the Super Six, but even first place, was in reach heading into the final rotation, when just .075 separated the top four teams and Utah trailed then third-place Alabama by a mere five-hundredths of a point. The three-event standings looked like this: Oklahoma 148.050, UCLA 148.025, Alabama 149.000, Utah 147.975, Michigan 147.575 and Arkansas 146.875.
Utah, which qualified for a record 38th-straight national championship and is the only team to make all 32 NCAA Championships, couldn’t capitalize on their magnificent 49.475 bar set, instead failing to make the Super Six for the first time since 1999.
“Well shoot,” said Utah coach Greg Marsden after his team’s meltdown on the beam. “We thought beam would determine how we would do. It was such a roller coaster (event) all year. We knew how close (the meet) was and that it was going to be tough finishing on beam. I hope we can learn from our mistakes. We will focus on beam early in the offseason. We got off to a rocky start this year on beam and sometimes it is hard to turn that around.”
Three Utes qualified for individual event championships, which will be held on Sunday at 1 p.m. PDT (2 p.m. MDT). Damianova will make her first appearance in finals on both bars (9.925) and floor (9.925), Dabritz is in finals for the second year in a row, this time on bars (9.95), and Wilson will make her event final debut on vault (9.90). All four are first-team All-Americans and Dabritz, who placed third in the evening session and seventh overall, is also a first-team All-America all-arounder.
Earning second-team All-America honors were Hansen on bars, Hughes on beam and Tutka on floor to bring Utah’s total number of 2013 All-America awards to eight.
The Utes started the night on a bye before taking the floor for their first competitive rotation. Damianova (9.925) and Tutka (9.9) finished the set with dynamite routines to lead Utah to a 49.300 score. After one complete rotation, Utah stood in second place: Michigan 49.400, Utah 49.300, Oklahoma 49.275, Alabama 49.275, UCLA 49.075 and Arkansas 48.975.
Next up, vault, where Utah struggled to get good scores on its best event, even when ace Tory Wilson flew high and far, dropped out of the sky and nailed her landing. Wilson received a 9.9, which though Utah’s best score on the event and good enough to qualify her into event finals, was tied for her low of the season (matching her first vault of the year). Dabritz and Mary Beth Lofgren both scored 9.85s and Utah finished with a 49.200.
Even with the disappointing vault scores, Utah was just .050 out of the lead at the midway point, standing in fourth place in a tight race: Alabama 98.550, Oklahoma 98.550, UCLA 98.525, Utah 98.500, Michigan 98.175 and Arkansas 97.875. The Utes exited the vault for their second bye of the night.
Utah blasted out of its break faced with a lot of ground to make up as three of the four teams competing scored big on their respective events with UCLA and Oklahoma both scoring a 49.50 (on vault and bars) and Michigan going 49.400 on floor.
But what a coming out party the Utes threw on the bars, posting a 49.475 for their second-best score of the season. Dabritz scored a 9.95, Damianova a 9.925 and Hansen a 9.90 to bring the Utes to a 147.975 three-event total.
Utah’s fall from grace happened fast. Tutka nearly fell twice from the leadoff post, scoring a 9.45. Freshman Hughes, competing in her first NCAA Championships, apparently righted the ship with her 9.85, before Wilson fell. Immediately Kassandra Lopez fell and Utah slid to fifth place.