Coming from Newburyport, Georgia Dabritz had to get used to competing before 15,000 fans.
The University of Utah freshman appears to have overcome the initial nerves. On the heels of being named 2012 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Dabritz will represent Utah Saturday at NCAA Regionals at the University of Utah.
One of the nation's top recruits last year, Dabritz, a Plum Island resident, did not disappoint as a freshman, earning an individual Pac-12 title in the uneven bars. She was also a first-team All-Pac-12 selection on the floor exercise.
Although it may not have been obvious to the casual observer, Dabritz said she experienced a learning curve in her transition from Ace Gymnastics in Ipswich to Division 1 gymnastics at Utah.
The Utes have one of the most decorated programs in college athletics with 10 national championships. They are the only team to qualify for every NCAA Super Six since 2000. This weekend, they will attempt to qualify for a record 37th-consecutive national championship.
Dabritz said the level of competition at Utah is not nearly as intimidating as the rabid fan base. Utah is the nation's gymnastics attendance leader, averaging a record 14,352 fans per meet this season. The Pac-12's runner-up this season led all women's sports in attendance in 2010 and 2011, before finishing second behind Tennessee basketball this season.
"For me, I'd never been in front of that many people before," Dabritz said. "It was a little scary the first time out. It helped once I got used to it. There's such a great energy and atmosphere."
As a high-school gymnast at Ace Gymnastics, Dabritz was the 2011 Junior Olympic champion in the all-around, bars and floor. She was also the runner-up on the vault.
"My biggest problem was my consistency," Dabritz said. "That's improved so much since I've been here. I'm in the gym every day training for my routine. The difference between club and college is that you're training harder skills. That adds confidence so you can be more consistent."
This weekend, 36 NCAA teams will be spread into groups of six at six different regional competitions. The top two teams from each region will advance to NCAA Championships two weeks later.
"I'm hoping to show people what I can do there," Dabritz said. "Individually, I hope I can win a national title, but we don't really focus on the individual as much as the team effort. We have a great shot to go out and move into the Super Six."
Utah placed second at the Pac-12 Championships, finishing 0.05 points behind UCLA.