Annabeth Eberle was flying high again in Utah's win Friday.
Jan. 30, 2004
SALT LAKE CITY -
SALT LAKE CITY-The Annabeth Eberle Show continued its season-long run in the Huntsman Center Friday night, where the junior All-American led No. 3 Utah to a 196.600-194.625 win over No. 23 Minnesota. Eberle, who was averaging three wins a meet coming into the event, hit for her average, winning the all-around (39.60), vault (9.95) and floor (9.925) titles. Eberle received assistance from Utah's other upperclassmen: Senior Melissa Vituj placed second in the all-around with a season-best 39.525, won beam (9.925) and tied for first on floor (9.925), while senior Veronique Leclerc tied for first on bars (9.85).
Utah's best event was its first, where Eberle remained unbeaten on the vault this year with her 9.95. Freshman Nicolle Ford placed second, tying her personal best with a 9.925, and Kristen Riffanacht (9.85), Vituj (9.85) and Rachel Tidd (9.825) rounded out a 49.40 team score. Minnesota lagged over a point behind after counting a fall on bars and scoring a 48.15.
Utah's first hint that an exceptionally tight scoring night was in store came on the bars, where the Utes hit a nice set but were penalized heavily for small errors. In Utah's three previous meets, nothing less than a 9.925 had won an event title, but Leclerc returned from a two-meet injury layoff and tied Minnesota's Mary Skokut for first with a 9.85. Only Ford, who got too close to the top bar on a release move and took a nasty looking fall, had a noticeable miss. An example of the rigid scoring came on Vituj's routine from the No. 6 position: She pulled off a triple full flyaway dismount for the first time in competition, but came up a little short on two handstands and was docked nearly two tenths of a point.
Riffanacht got Utah off to a nice start on its last event, scoring a 9.80 on the floor and Tidd impressed the judges with a career-best 9.875 routine. Little mistakes were what hurt Utah here as Ford and Gritt Hofmann, in her return from the disabled list, both stepped out of bounds. Again, Eberle and Vituj, both with 9.925s, gave the team a scoring boost.