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College Gymnastics: Higher level

Published March 25, 2006 1:47 am

Utes top Cougars, await region
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The University of Utah's second-ranked gymnastics team faced two opponents Friday. One was Brigham Young, the other was a nasty bacteria. In the end, the Utes managed to vanquish both, beating the Cougars 197.5-193.35 in front of 14,407 fans at the Huntsman Center.

The score was a season high for the Utes, who find out Monday where they will be sent for the NCAA regional championships April 8.

The six regional hosts are Iowa State (North Central), LSU (Central), Michigan (Northeast), Arkansas (South Central), Georgia (Southeast) and Stanford (West).

Utah is in the North Central region, but could be sent out of the region since the top 18 teams are seeded.

Utah coach Greg Marsden said he has flights reserved to Fayetteville, Ark., just in case.

"We're not hosting, so I don't care where we go," he said.

After its second poor showing in two weeks, BYU has to hope Southern Utah has a poor meet today at the WAC Championships to qualify. The Cougars, ranked No. 23, currently hold the final spot in the North Central region, but coach Brad Cattermole wasn't optimistic his team wouldn't get bumped.

"If they have a halfway decent meet, they're probably going to pass us," he said of SUU. "If we had hit anywhere close to what we are capable of doing in the last two meets we would have controlled our own destiny."

The meet started horribly for the Cougars who had two falls on the bars and scored just 47.975. Vault was even worse with the first three having problems and BYU scoring only 47.55.

Utah, meanwhile, had its best meet even though several gymnasts, including Ashley Postell, Nicolle Ford and Gritt Hofmann all were battling strep throat.

Postell won the all-around with a 39.625, her third-highest score of the year.

"I didn't know how we were going to put a lineup together," Marsden said. "[The trainer] came over during the middle of the meet and told me to be aware things were heading south, they were getting even more sick, so it's amazing they did as well as they did."

The meet was the first time Utah has hit 24-for-24 routines this year.

"We're all peaking at the right time," Postell said. "We can bring it when we need to."

Utah's best event was the balance beam, where Utah scored a season high 49.5 Kristen Riffanacht earned a season high (9.825), Gabi Onodi tied her career high (9.875) and Nina Kim (9.9) earned a career high. As good as Riffanacht's score was, it was dropped since the high marks continued with Hofmann and Ford earning 9.9s and Postell getting a 9.925.

"Sometimes with sickness, we're not focused so much on what we're doing, so we're more relaxed," Marsden said. "From here, we just have to clean a lot of the routines up."

Utah's five seniors - Hofmann, Riffanacht, Onodi, Natalie Nicoloff and Dominque D'Oliveira - were all honored on senior night.

Hofmann, a fifth-year senior because the NCAA granted her another year for medical hardship, closed out the home meet by scoring a 9.825 on the floor. The deduction was for a low landing on her third pass, but she didn't seem to mind, and neither did the crowd which gave her a standing ovation.

Utah 197.5, BYU 193.35

IN SHORT - Utah finished the regular season with an 11-2 record after beating BYU for the 20th straight time.

KEY STAT - The Utes scored a season-high 49.5 on the balance beam.

KEY MOMENT - Kristina Baskett, Ashley Postell and Nicolle Ford all had 9.9s on the bars.