#2 Utah at #4 Michigan
Saturday, 5:30 p.m. MST
Before each of her teammates competed on the balance beam Friday at Arizona State, Nicolle Ford gave them a pep talk.
"I told them we weren't going to lose without a fight," Ford said.
She said one other thing too, according to freshman Nina Kim. "She told us to get mad," she said.
The Utes didn't let Ford down, scoring a 49.15 on the beam to come from behind to beat ASU 196.175-196.100.
That kind of spunk reminds Utah associate head coach Megan Marsden of some the teams in the early 1990s, when gymnasts such as Aimee Trepanier, Missy Marlowe, Suzanne Metz and Shelly Schaerrer were competing.
"Some teams don't want to know the scores, believing all they can do is go out and do the best they can do," Marsden said. "But those girls wanted to know the scores and how close a meet was. They believed they could take it up a notch higher if it was close."
What probably isn't a coincidence, is those gymnasts helped Utah win four NCAA titles from 1990 to '95. The Utes finished second to Alabama, at Alabama, in '92, and haven't won a national title since '95.
Teams might still be able to win a national title on talent alone, but having a bit more fight just might give this year's team a better chance of ending Utah's championship drought.
"I like it, because it shows that competitive spirit," Marsden said. "We've been missing that on some of our teams, but it's not something you can recruit. You have to wait and see how all of the gymnasts come together and what they bring out in each other."
Ford, a junior, is the most vocal leader on the team, but Marsden said she sees sophomore Ashley Postell taking on the same role more this year too.
Postell said she is still getting accustomed to such a role, but her motivation is clear.
"I always want to win," she said. "Who likes to lose?"
Maybe this week
Postell said she may try her new uneven bars dismount this week when the Utes compete at Michigan. After falling off the bars in the first two meets, Postell has scored 9.825 or higher in the last three competitions. The upgrade on bars is the last change she expects to make in her routines this year.
"I'd like to do it at an away meet first in case I mess something up, not as many people will see me," she said. "I'll see how practice goes this week. But if I don't do it this week, definitely next week."
Utah plays host to No. 20 Minnesota next week.
Down and out
Most of the team members who were battling a nasty cold Friday were improving by Monday. The exception was Utah coach Greg Marsden, who was too sick to work Monday and left the coaching duties in the hands of his wife and associate coach, Megan.
"I haven't seen him this sick in a long time," she said.
Fans in the stands
Ford's parents, Chaz and Lori, will be in the stands Saturday to watch their daughter compete. They haven't seen her compete in person since she was a freshman.
"With their work schedules, it's hard for them to get out here," said Ford, who is from Binghamton, N.Y. "But they saw me compete my whole life; it's no big deal."
In the polls
Georgia, which comes to Utah on March 6, remains in No. 1 with the Utes still in second and Michigan is fourth, just behind Alabama. Michigan scored a season high 196.375 last week. Individually, Ford is seventh in the all-around and tied for second on the bars and fifth on the balance beam. Kristina Baskett is seventh in the vault and ninth on the bars. Gritt Hofmann is eighth on the beam.
Around the nation
UCLA's Kristina Comforte scored the first 10.0 this year, doing so for a vault in the Bruins' 195.925-190.050 win over Cal State Fullerton. . . . In a matchup of two top-10 teams, No. 6 Oklahoma was edged by No. 7 Nebraska 196.850-196.000. . . . Georgia had a sellout Saturday (9,951) for its 197.150-196.100 win over LSU.
1. Georgia 196.365
2. Utah 195.925
3. Alabama 195.800
4. Michigan 195.694
5. Florida 195.340
6. Oklahoma 195.287
7. Nebraska 195.195
8. Missouri 195.040
9. Iowa State 195.006
10. Arizona St. 194.931
11. UCLA 194.845
12. Stanford 194.837
13. LSU 194.760
14. Arizona 194.725
15. Denver 194.554
16. Auburn 194.390
17. Penn St. 194.356
18. Kentucky 193.920
19. Oregon St. 193.725
20. Minnesota 193.644
21. Arkansas 192.825
22. UNC 192.669
23. UNH 192.585
24. Mich. St. 192.385
25. Illinois 192.380