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NCAA gymnastics: Utes focus on the positives as season comes to a close

Published April 27, 2008 2:37 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

ATHENS, Ga. - With the faint sounds of Georgia's celebration of its fourth straight NCAA Championship in the background, Utah coach Greg Marsden was asked a question about losing Friday. He quickly corrected the interviewer.

"We didn't lose, we were second," he said after his team scored a 197.125 to Georgia's 197.45 in the gymnastics national championships. "There were 12 teams here and there are 100 teams across the country and we were second."

Very good, but not quite good enough - that is the spot in which the Utes have found themselves the past three years, finishing second to Georgia.

There is disappointment. "Of course we wanted to win, we wanted to win last year," Marsden said.

There is also a little bitterness too, a feeling that the Utes may have been robbed to a certain extent with Georgia profiting from being at home and getting some inflated scores as a result.

"We felt in our hearts we were the best team," junior Nina Kim said.

Marsden was seen arguing with event director Carole Ide during Friday's competition, but wouldn't comment on the discussion directly.

"It was just a general, overall concern that I and a lot of people have and expressed, it didn't have anything to do with the outcome of the meet," he said.

Marsden's immediate task is to prevent the little disappointment from overwhelming the positives of the season.

"I much prefer to focus on the unbelievable number of things this team did and accomplished rather than the one thing we didn't," Marsden said. "It's just not the way I choose to view things."

There is plenty to be happy about for the Utes.

They went through the regular season with just one loss, to Florida, and completed a season without counting a fall for the first time in the program's history.

Ashley Postell didn't win the all-around, but she did tie Suzanne Metz with the most all-around wins in a season after posting the highest all-around score Friday during the team competition. The Utes also got along with one another much better than they did in 2007, making for a more enjoyable season.

"We did the next best to first, so we're not going home with our heads down," junior Kristina Baskett said. "We had an awesome year and we finished kind of where we've been all year so we're happy."

The disappointment would have been much greater if Utah hadn't performed as well in the postseason as it did during the regular season.

But the Utes did that, overcoming a bad start to win the North Central region, then overcoming a few mistakes on floor in Thursday's preliminary session to finish second to Georgia in the qualifying round.

On Friday, the Utes had possibly the most difficult rotation, starting on the balance beam while Georgia played to its loud crowd on the floor.

After some wobbles in the first two routines, the Utes finished strong and kept that momentum going through the meet. The biggest break was a fall on the floor by Daria Bijak, which didn't count.

"Our bars hurt us a little bit, we had a couple steps, but you can always tenth yourself to death," Marsden said. "You are never going to have a meet where everything is perfect, but we gave it our best shot. Georgia beat us on Thursday and Friday and at some point you have to say they were the better team."

Doing all they could brought the Utes some measure of satisfaction.

"We're second again and I don't like being second, I want to be first," Kim said. "But I think our team did the best we could. There are things we could have done better, but so could have other teams, so I'm happy and we're happy."

lwodraska@sltrib.com