Utes mull vaulting to championship
To distinguish themselves or be a bit more conservative and wonder, if they lose a championship by a tenth or so, if they should have gone for the bigger vault?
It's the dilemma Utah's vaulters find themselves in, and one they may not solve until they're running down the vault runway at the NCAA Championships.
Utah has three vaulters, Ashley Postell, Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim, who can perform a yurchenko one-and-a-half vault, one of the most difficult to perform. Most gymnasts - Utah coach Greg Marsden estimates it could be as many as 98 percent - will perform a yurchenko full or yurchenko half.
If Utah goes with the higher-risk vault and sticks, it could set the Utes apart from the rest of the competition. But if they don't stick, the Utes could get more deductions. A third possibility is the Utes could perform the harder vaults, and the judges could care less, failing to give them extra credit for the effort.
It's a tactical decision Marsden is leaving up to the athletes.
"It depends on how they're feeling and how aggressive they want to be," he said. "The fact is, you have to stick vault, but nobody can stick every single vault."
Postell used the bigger vault at regionals but didn't get enough umph off the horse.
She fell on the landing, tweaking her knee and earning just 9.375.
That miscue hasn't swayed her from using the vault at the NCAA Championships, which start Thursday in Corvallis, Ore. Postell is confident she can stick it, and said the landing is actually easier on her sore ankle than other vaults.
"I like to be different and do something no one else is doing," she said. "I don't like to do what everyone else is doing because the judges might say 'oh, if everyone is doing it, it must be easy.' ''
Baskett, tied with Postell at No. 10 in the national rankings in the event, didn't use the vault at regionals because she didn't get to train it much the week before because of a sore back. She wants to use it at nationals, but said she's not as confident in the landing.
"I know I can stick the full, but it's a tossup if we want the stick or the bigger vault," she said. "Anything we have against other teams that makes us stand out is good, but only if it translates into points for us."
Kim is the least likely to use the bigger vault because she has trained it the least.
Having such options wouldn't have been available to the Utes several years ago in their conservative approach. Then, Marsden recruited gymnasts known more for their grace than power. Now, he has gymnasts like Postell and Baskett who go for the bigger skills, giving him the strongest vault lineup he has had.
"It was our Achilles' heel," he said of past years. "We struggled to be competitive. I don't care what any coach says or how good they think they are, but to some extent you're only as good as your talent and we struggled on that event because we didn't have the fast-twitch athletes. We'd work twice as hard and get half the results."
The decision to go for it or not would have been easier five years ago, when gymnasts performed two vaults and the highest score counted. Marsden was one of the coaches who pushed to go to one vault, and the switch was made in 2001.
"The notion of our sport is you don't get a second chance," he said.