Saturday, March 7, 2015

Utah Gymnastics vs Michigan: A Farewell of Sorts


Just. Wow.

Fifth-ranked Michigan was heading into town to face off against #4 Utah.  The buzz 90 minutes prior to the meet was that the crowd was going to be huge.  The fire marshall had been through the arena earlier in the day and raised the limit for a capacity crowd above what had been set over a decade ago.  Even so, ticket sales had been robust and there was the concern some families with general-admission coupons would have to be turned away.  The plan was to invite them back with free tickets for the Pac-12 Championships being held here in a couple of weeks.  Oh, yeah, and CBS National News (“CBS This Morning”) was in the house, doing a story on Utah’s gymnastics program that will be aired some time prior to the aforementioned Pac-12 Championships.

This was the last regular season meet and a farewell to four seniors who represent one of the strongest classes the program has ever seen.  The crowd was ready.

Introductions were emotional, and I’ve never understood how the athletes manage to move so quickly from tears to competition, but that was the order of the night.

This may have been the only moment the four seniors weren’t sure exactly what was expected of them

Michigan came to play and laid down one after another stellar bars routine during the first rotation.  Utah kept pace with a very strong set of vaults and came out of the rotation with a small lead.

Utah usually is very strong on bars and tonight was no exception. 

Once again, Georgia Dabtritz topped off the set with a perfect score.  Crowd roar.  Crowd roar again.  Utah’s lead grows.

To beam, the one event that has plagued Utah for too long.  Last week they had to count a fall, though it didn’t prevent them from winning the meet.  What would happen tonight?  The lead over Michigan isn’t substantial enough to withstand a meltdown here.  FUGEDDABOUTIT.  One after another, Utah’s gymnasts laid down stellar beam routines with the crowd growing more frenzied with each landed tumbling pass.  The highlight was one of the brilliant freshmen receiving a 10 from one judge and posting a score of 9.975.  Utah’s lead grew once again, and there had to be a general expectation throughout the arena that they wouldn’t, and couldn’t, blow it on floor.

Prior to the start of the final rotation, the crowd is announced as 16,019.  Sixteen thousand, nineteen people!  1,019 of them were without seats! There isn’t a single person associated with this program who could fail to be stunned by that number.  A team record.  A Huntsman Center record.  And a crowd that brought Utah’s home-meet season average to 14,950, an NCAA attendance record that gives Utah its fifth all-women’s sports’ attendance title.  And that crowd is roaring once again.

Floor offers a showcase, and the Utes and their seniors took advantage.  It was a competition, but it was an exhibition and a show of appreciation as well.  No disappointments here.

Michigan had a great meet and finished with a score of 197.675.  Utah rose to the occasion with a 198.250.  Roar.  And three of Utah's seniors captured the top three spots in the all-around competition. A fitting home finish to a season that so far has written its own script.

If you've read this far, I'm impressed.  Please drop a comment if you enjoyed the show. And "Go Utes!"


  1. What a spectacular night this must have been. Major congrats to the Utah Womens's Team! Russ, through your photos many more have had the opportunity to see just how amazingly talented these kids truly are. You have captured their athleticism during peak moments of performance that will represent their accomplishments for the rest of their lives. Utah is so fortunate to have such a masterful photographer to cover what has to be the top women's gymnastic team in the country. Well done!

    1. Many thanks, Matt. Indeed it was a spectacular night. Here's hoping they've got more surprises in store.

  2. Great post Russ! I have to whole-heartedly agree with Matt’s comments. I was initially disappointed to see you weren’t trying to shoot with “Old Faithful” but not disappointed in the results. It was a great night and a great set of images to showcase it. I love that crowd shot with Fumina and Lia in the front row! The 2nd beam image of Baely is another favorite of mine. I really like the up close wider angle shot of Corrie on the floor and realize you had to move to the other side of the floor to get that. Her facial expression during tumbling passes is sometimes less than the most flattering. This image is a real nice capture, befitting of the outstanding career she has had at Utah.

  3. Great shots Russ, and a great meet for sure! I would have loved to have shot it with you. GO BLUE!!