Freshman Nicolle Ford set career highs in the all-around and on beam.
Jan. 23, 2004
PROVO, Utah -
The No. 1 ranked Utah gymnastics team overcame a rocky start and some youthful nerves to earn a come-from-behind 196.225-194.700 win over No. 11 Brigham Young. After starting the meet with three falls off the bars-all by underclassmen-Utah appeared headed for a rare defeat to its arch-rival. But co-captains Melissa Vituj and Annabeth Eberle gathered the group together after the disastrous start and got their younger teammates back on track to extend their series stranglehold over BYU to 72-2.
After the pep talk, Utah fought back from its horrible 47.95 bar set and popped for scores of 49.55, 49.275 and 49.45 on vault, floor and beam. Led by Eberle's near-perfect 9.975 score, Utah tied the second-best vault mark in school history. The Utes were just as impressive on the balance beam, an event where BYU preceded them with four falls. Ahead by over a point entering the last event, Utah would win the meet if it stayed on the apparatus. The Utes did more than that-posting their highest score of the year-and negating a big night on floor by BYU.
"Once we got past bars we were fine," said Utah Head Coach Greg Marsden. "We depend a lot on our freshmen and they showed they were freshmen tonight. They tightened up after we had some falls and tried to do things they don't do in practice. But I give our upperclassmen a lot of credit. I was headed over to talk to the group after bars and Mel (Vituj) and A.B. (Eberle) were already doing it, so I didn't say anything."
One freshman unaffected by her classmates' struggles was Nicolle Ford, who set a career-high and placed second in the all-around with a 39.575. Spectacular on every event except beam in the first two meets, Ford solved that problem against the Cougars. Performing fourth, she went through her paces with ease and was rewarded with a 9.925 score. That, like her all-around mark, was good for second place behind Eberle.
Enjoying her best outing of the season was senior All-American Vituj. Her 39.475 all-around total was good for third and only a step out of bounds on the floor exercise prevented her from tying with Ford for second.
Two upperclassmen missed the meet to injuries. Junior Gritt Hofmann, one of the team's top scorers on beam and floor, injured her hip in the pre-meet beam warm-ups. She will be evaluated in the coming days. Senior All-American Veronique Leclerc missed her second meet with an ankle injury. Kristen Riffanacht got dinged up once the meet started. The sophomore overcame a jarring blow to the head on the vault, when she hit the end of the vault table, to score a 9.825 on the floor exercise.
Hofmann's and Leclerc's replacements combined to "hit" two of three events. Freshman Stephanie Lim bounced back from a missed bar set to score a 9.80 in her first collegiate floor routine. Sophomore Gabriella Onodi-competing to count for the first time as a Ute-was magnificent in her beam debut, matching sophomore Natalie Nicoloff's set-starter with a 9.85.