Melissa Vituj scored a 10.0 on floor in her final JHC appearance.
March 19, 2004
SALT LAKE CITY -
It was a night for records in the Huntsman Center Friday-where Melissa Vituj, Annabeth Eberle and Rachel Tidd led No. 2 Utah to a school-record score and a 198.600-197.800 win over No. 9 Brigham Young. They combined for the top three all-around scores ever recorded in a single meet at Utah in finishing 1-2-3. Utah also set a new school vault record. Even the record that didn't fall came with a "best:" While Utah failed to net the necessary 14,225 fans to move ahead of Alabama for first place in the national attendance rankings, it drew the largest crowd to watch a gymnastics meet this year: 13,325.
Emotions ran high even before the meet, when popular seniors Vituj and Veronique Leclerc were honored one last time by the home crowd. Both seniors responded with outstanding performances. Vituj won the all-around with a 39.80 (tied for the fourth-beset score in school history), tied for first on the beam (9.95) and won the floor with a perfect 10.0. For the thousands of Utah fans who will never see Vituj compete again, it was a fitting close to a magnificent career. Leclerc also came up big in her final Huntsman Center appearance, competing on three events and scoring a 9.90 on vault and bars and a 9.825 on beam.
For awhile it appeared as though the junior Eberle was going to steal the thunder from her elder teammates. Eberle tied with Tidd on the vault with a perfect 10.0 and then tied for first on bars with a 9.975. But Vituj responded with a one-tenth edge on the beam and a half a tenth's edge on floor to pass her talented teammate in the all-around standings.
Utah blasted out of the gates by scoring a school-record 49.775 on the vault. Tidd and Eberle wrapped up the finest vault set in school history with back-to-back perfect 10.0s. Also scoring for Utah were Leclerc (9.90), Riffanacht (9.95) and Vituj (9.925). It was a career-best for Riffanacht, who has set or tied career-highs on the event in each of the last three meets. The Cougars hung close with a 49.425 on bars.
That margin threatened to evaporate during the third rotation. For the second straight week, the Utes seemed less than confident on the balance beam, although they didn't have to count a fall and did some outstanding gymnastics. However, everyone but Vituj, who scored a 9.95, had some sort of blemish on an otherwise excellent routine. A fall (by Ford) and a balance check by Leclerc and Vituj threw a scare into the crowd, primarily because of what was happening on the floor exercise where BYU's front tumbling was receiving exceptional scores. Utah lost that round, 49.525-49.400, and saw its lead shrink to sixth tenths of a point going into the final rotation.
While BYU was doing its best gymnastics of the evening on the balance beam, the Utes exploded for a 49.775 floor score, the second-best mark in school history. In addition to Vituj's 10.0, Gritt Hofmann set a career standard with a 9.975 that had the crowd roaring for a 10.0. Eberle (9.95), Riffanacht (9.925) and Lim (9.925) finished Utah's scoring. Both Riffanacht and Lim tied career highs.
Utah will find out Monday by 1 p.m. MST where it is headed for the regional championships.