Melissa Vituj won the balance beam competition with a 9.95.
Jan. 10, 2003
SALT LAKE CITY -
The Streak is over after 23 years and 170 dual meets. But the Utes didn't go down without a fight in a 197.225-196.750 loss to No. 1 ranked UCLA, as evidenced by the standing ovation they received at the end by a crowd of 10,834 in the Huntsman Center. It was an audience that hadn't seen its Utes lose a dual meet since 1979-the longest home court win streak in all of sports.
The fans cheered for a banged up Ute team competing without one of the best gymnasts in NCAA history and two star freshmen. Twelve-time All-American and three-time NCAA champion Theresa Kulikowski suffered a rib injury earlier in the week that will keep her out indefinitely. Freshmen Crystal Gilmore, off the Canadian Olympic team, and Dominque D'Oliveira, a South African National team member, were sidelined with back and ankle injuries, respectively.
In their place, a scrappy mix of veterans and Utes gave a good run at the best team in the nation, one with four Olympians and numerous national team members. Defending NCAA champion Jamie Dantzscher of UCLA led a spectacular group of all-around competitors, with a 39.775. Dantzscher was brilliant for an appreciative crowd while also winning the vault (tie 9.975), bars (9.95) and floor (9.975). Utah countered with feisty junior All-American Melissa Vituj, who placed second in the all-around with a 39.60, and classmate Veronique Leclerc-third with a 39.35. Three other competitors topped 39.00: UCLA's Onnie Willis (39.25), Utah's Kim Allan (39.10) and UCLA's Kate Richardson (39.025).
Vituj won the balance beam with a career-tying 9.95 for Utah's only victory. Her 39.60 all-around score was just off her career best of 39.625 and she scored a 9.95 on the floor exercise to tie a career high.
Perhaps most pleasing to Ute coach Greg Marsden was the effort put forth by his collegiate novices. Sophomore Gritt Hofmann, pressed into action with the injury to Kulikowski, responded with a 9.725 score on both vault and beam. It marked the second and third routines of her college career. Freshmen Kristen Riffanacht had a superb collegiate opener, scoring a 9.75 on bars, 9.85 on vault and 9.875 on the floor. And freshman Natalie Nicoloff bounced back from a fall on bars to score a 9.850 in exhibition on the beam.