Tired legs contribute to mistake-filled round
ATHENS, Ga. - Many of the top gymnasts were competing for the third night in a row Saturday, making the individual championships as much about endurance as skills.
The unusual format may be why there were so many more mistakes than in the previous nights, because of tired legs.
"It's hard the third night," Ute freshman Kyndal Robarts said. "It's weird, we haven't even competed two nights in a row before."
Some coaches want to do away with the individual night altogether because it makes the championships such a long event, but that possibility has long been resisted by coaches of smaller schools who don't have enough good gymnasts to compete for the team title but may have one or two who can bring their schools publicity by winning an event championship.
There were 14 schools represented in Saturday's competition.
"This is a great experience for so many different programs," Oregon State coach Tanya Chaplin said. "It's nice to have those programs who didn't qualify as a team have this experience."
Utah coach Greg Marsden believes the individual competition should be eliminated, believing most gymnasts didn't want to participate either, because they were worn out by Saturday.
Utah's Ashley Postell was named the AAI Senior Gymnast of the Year on a vote by the NCAA gymnastics coaches at a banquet Saturday. She also is a finalist for the Honda Award, along with Georgia's Katie Heenan, Michigan's Lindsey Bruck and Stanford's Tabitha Yim.
Postell finished her career with 120 victories and 30 all-around wins. She also set school records this season with all-around victories in a season (11) and individual victories (47).
Georgia's Suzanne Yoculan was named Coach of the Year, the fifth time she has earned the award.
In the future
Utah graduates Postell, Jessica Duke and Katie Kivisto. Replacing Postell will be nearly impossible, but the Utes do have two strong gymnasts who will be with the team next season, with Cortni Beers and Stephanie McAllister arriving. Beers was a U.S. National Team member in 2004-05 and McAllister is a two-time junior Olympic national champion.
The impact of losing Postell is obvious, but Marsden said Duke and Kivisto will be hard to replace in their own ways.
Duke was a steady competitor who didn't mind being a role player, whether that meant competing in the all-around last season or sparingly this season.
"She was always there for us when we needed her," Marsden said. "If you look back through her career, she has always contributed."
Kivisto battled injuries throughout her career, but was a strong leadoff gymnast and turned into one of the team's more vocal leaders.
"Her development as a person and a gymnast was very satisfying," Marsden said. "She really blossomed and emerged as a leader in her career."
* VAULT - Susan Jackson, LSU, 9.8563
* UNEVEN BARS - Tasha Schwikert, UCLA, 9.9375
* BALANCE BEAM - Grace Taylor, Georgia, 9.95
* FLOOR - Courtney McCool, Georgia, 9.9625