Annabeth Eberle is the 2004 NCAA vault runner-up.
April 17, 2004
LOS ANGELES -
The University of Utah gymnastics team failed to show its true talent on Friday in the NCAA Super Six team finals, but three Utes gave a taste of what could have been during Saturday's NCAA individual event finals. Junior Annabeth Eberle finished as the NCAA runner-up on the vault, Melissa Vituj dazzled her way to a third-place tie on the floor in the final routine of her sensational Ute career, and freshman Nicolle Ford joined a crowd of Olympians on the awards stand on the uneven bars-tying for fourth. All three Utes were named first-team All-Americans-Ford a two-time selection.
Eberle's scintillating pair of vaults came as a surprise only because "I had a terrible warm-up. I was tired and my legs were tight," confessed Eberle after averaging a 9.9188 to finish second in the nation to two-time NCAA champion Ashley Miles (9.9438) of Alabama. "But I felt relaxed during the three-minute touch and felt even better in competition," added Utah's four-time All-America junior. Eberle and Miles were the only gymnasts to score a 9.90 or better on the event, which requires two different vaults on individual finals night. Eberle averaged a 9.90 on her first vault and a 9.9375 on her second for a 9.9188 total average. Eberle was also a first-team vault All-American last year, tying for sixth in event finals.
Eberle credits a lesson learned at the 2003 NCAA finals for this year's finish. "I tried too hard to 'stick' my landings last year. This time I just relaxed and did what I have done all year long." Literally, in this case, since Eberle also finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the nation on the vault.
Fabulous freshman Ford was the first Ute competitor of the night and her balance beam routine appeared nearly flawless. Unfortunately, she forgot to insert her full turn, which knocked the routine's start value down to a 9.80. The two-tenth value deduction resulted in a 9.675 score, which placed her 12th.
Vituj, who finished her amazing career as an 11-time All-American, tied for third on the floor exercise with Olympian Antolin. Vituj has two different competition floor routines-believed to be a first in college gymnastics. She chose her James Bond version for her grand finale and despite drawing the least favorable position to compete-No. 1-impressed the six-member judging panel for a 9.90. All smiles during her routine, the sunny-tempered Vituj burst into tears when faced with the reality her career was over.
"I am very satisfied with my career," she said. "I couldn't ask for anything more from this program and don't want it to ever end, but it has," she said while tears streamed down her face. "I got to compete in six straight Super Six championships, which is amazing."
Utah also earned several second-team All-America honors, which were determined in Thursday's preliminary sessions. Vituj and Ford placed seventh and eighth, respectively, in the all-around, and Vituj and sophomore Kristen Riffanacht made the All-America second team on the balance beam by tying for eighth.