Senior Annabeth Eberle won the all-around, vault and floor.
April 9, 2005
SALT LAKE CITY - The University of Utah women's gymnastics team is headed for a record 30th straight national championship after winning the NCAA North Central Region Championships, Saturday in Salt Lake City. Utah, which trailed Brigham Young at the halfway point, roared back to score a 196.800. The Cougars scored a 195.975 to finish second and claim the region's other automatic NCAA Championships berth. In third was Oregon State (195.675), followed by Minnesota (193.975), Southern Utah (193.450) and Iowa (192.350).
Ute senior Annabeth Eberle, competing for the last time in the Huntsman Center, received one standing ovation after another from the crowd of 6,313 for her incredible evening. Eberle won the all-around with a 39.625, vault (9.975) and floor (9.95). Nicolle Ford placed second in the all-around with a 39.425 and Ashley Postell placed first on bars, scoring a 9.925.
It was the highlight of the night for Postell, who saw her beam win streak snapped at six after falling off the apparatus for the first time. Shes finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the nation on the event and has bailed Utah out of trouble on several occasions this season but not this time. An earlier fall by Rachel Tidd forced the Utes to count a 9.325 score and left Utah trailing BYU after two events, 98.050-97.850. Close behind was Oregon State (97.700).
Utah went into a bye after its mishandled beam set and seemed to get rejuvenated. Either that, or someone gave a great halftime speech, because the Utes absolutely dominated the second half. Their 49.525 floor exercise score tied their second-best mark of the season and they finished with by far the best vault score of the night--a 49.425.
The Utes fared even a bit better in the standings on their final event, the vault, where Eberle took first (9.975), Postell and Tidd tied for second (9.875), and Ford and Jessica Duke tied for fourth (9.85).
The Utes held a comfortable advantage when the went to their bye seats for the final rotation and watched BYU erase a small Oregon State advantage to place second. Quotes from the Utah and BYU athletes and coaches follow.
Utah Head Coach Greg Marsden Opening statement: "We made it interesting. Obviously, we're concerned about the mistakes at this point. We can't make those mistakes at the next level or it will really hurt us. But we came back from it and I'm proud of that. We had our best floor and vault rotations this year. That shows me a lot about this team's character."
On what happened during bye before floor: "I went back to the bye room and we talked about some things. But I think they got themselves together before that point. It took me a while to get in there. Megan and I were discussing some things out on the floor. I got the sense when I walked in there that the job had already been done. I'm not sure by who. There was a good attitude when I walked in there."
Was he surprised to be in that after the first three rotations: "Was I surprised to be counting a fall on the beam? Yeah. We don't take anything for granted. You have to perform every meet. Ashley (Postell) missed on a skill that is unusual for her to miss. Rachel (Tidd) was being aggressive. Sometimes, you're just a little off. But you have got to stay focused when that happens. You have to go into each meet with butterflies, knowing you have to do a good job. We had a great start on the bars and we were being aggressive on the beam. We weren't being tentative (on the beam). They were going out to nail the event, but they had a couple mistakes."
On getting past the mistakes: "This is a very competitive group. They want to win. We made some mistakes on the beam, but we got away with it. I know that they are going to come back into the gym next week determined."
On some of the teams which have qualified for Nationals: "Gee, a bunch of new teams there, huh? It is going to be a dog-fight. LSU has really come on strong. Florida beat Georgia in that region. Georgia has been special at times this year. Alabama is a capable team. UCLA has a beautiful team. It is going to be all about who gets on a roll. We feel like we can compete with anyone."
Utah Senior Annabeth Eberle On her all-around performance: "It was great. But I was more worried about the team and focused on the team moving on. We all did such a great job, especially after beam happened. We went out there and did very well on the floor and vault."
On being behind after three rotations and the falls on beam: "It didn't scare me. But we definitely don't like to be in that position."
On whether this meet was a reality check before Nationals: "This kind of proves that we can continue on from the regular season. At this point in the season, scores are a little tighter and we still came out with a high score. We just need to keep it up."
Utah Sophomore Nicolle Ford On her beam routine after the falls by Postell and Tidd: "I just tried not to think about what happened before me. I always put myself in a mode before beam. I just tried to put myself in that mode and did what I do every day in the gym. I was pretty nervous, but it was okay."
On what happened during the bye after beam: "The team just regrouped, talked about what we had to do and relaxed after beam. There were some people who definitely needed to relax."
Utah Senior Gritt Hoffman On her 9.925 floor routine: "I was just really happy to have another chance to perform in front of the home crowd. I was performing for the team. I was very happy how my floor routine ended. The crowd gave me goosebumps."
Utah Freshman Ashley Postell On her fall on the beam: "No one's perfect, but better to do it here than at Nationals. Things happen. It isn't a problem spot (in the routine). The skill I fell on is not usually something I would fall on. I'm not too worried about it."
BYU Head Coach Brad Cattermole Opening statement: "Tonight was amazing. We've worked hard all year long and you have to give our kids credit, since many of them competed with stress fractures tonight. We did an amazing job on beam and I don't think we could have done any better tonight."
On his thoughts while OSU was competing on bars: "It was nerve-wracking, but I thought that if they were meant to beat us tonight then it would happen. We tell our kids in practice to leave it on the floor and let everything take its place. I can't bring myself to sit there and say `fall, fall.' This night it was meant to be us."
On missing Nationals last year and qualifying this year: "Last year we had to count a fall and missed out by a tenth. We didn't want bars to be our last event tonight. But this year, with this group I would want beam to be our last event. We did a great job on beam."
BYU Senior Jaime Mabray On her beam performance: "I was thinking I've done this a million time in practice, and I just went out there and did it."
On her all-around finish: "It was exciting, but I couldn't have done it without the team."
On going to Nationals: "I think we just want to go out there and do our best and have no regrets."
BYU Sophomore Marie Helene-Claveau On beam: "I was thinking that I only have a few meets left and wanted to do my best and I think I did just that."
On watching OSU compete on bars: "They did a good job, but you want to go (to Nationals) yourself, so I was nervous."
On missing out of Nationals last year: "It was disappointing to finish third. Last year we were feeling what Oregon State is probably feeling right now."
BYU Freshman Dayna Smart On beam: "I was thinking just like Jaime, that I do this everyday in practice and I just didn't worry about it, went out and competed."
On watching OSU compete on bars:
"You can only compete and then you have to let things go. We did a really good job tonight with nobody falling."