Ashley Postell won the all-around in the first session and qualified for event finals on all four apparatus.
April 20, 2006
CORVALLIS, Ore. -
The Utah gymnastics team roared back from a first-half deficit in the first day of NCAA Championships competition and qualified for the Super Six team finals Friday night. In fifth place after the first two events, the Utes exploded for the highest score of the afternoon on vault and bars to knock Michigan out of third place and advance along with Nebraska and Alabama. Three more teams will come out of the evening session. It marks the 12th Super Six appearance for the Utes since the format went into effect in 1993.
The talent-packed afternoon grouping proved just as competitive as predicted, with Nebraska edging ahead of Alabama on the final rotation even as Utah swept past Michigan. The final standings of the afternoon: Nebraska (196.325), Alabama (196.250), Utah (196.175), Michigan (196.00), Louisiana State (195.650) and Oklahoma (195.525).
For the second straight year, Ute Ashley Postell won the all-around in the early session, this time scoring a 39.525. While her final placing will not be determined until the higher-scoring evening session is complete, the sophomore is now undefeated in all-around competition at the NCAA Championships.
Postell, who also qualified for individual finals on all four events, had plenty of help getting Utah to the Super Six. Joining Postell as first-team All-Americans were Nicolle Ford on vault and bars, Kristina Baskett on bars and Gritt Hofmann on vault. Baskett's 9.90 on the uneven bars was the best bar score of the afternoon.
Just as critical was Utah's big senior class-- filled with role players. Kristen Riffanacht posted a 9.675 as Utah's first performer of the competition on the balance beam. One event later, she opened Utah's floor set with a solid 9.75. Gabriella Onodi followed Riffanacht's beam routine with a 9.80 set--impressive because the beam scores would stay low all day and hers would hold up in a tie for ninth after every other team rotated through. Dominique D'Oliveira led off Utah's final event--the uneven bars--with arguably her best bar routine in three years and received a 9.725. Hofmann's 9.875 on the vault earned her first-team All-America honors and a place in event finals.
Utah needed all 24 "hits" to advance out of a session that included four teams from last year's Super Six. It marked only the second time all year that the Utes went without a miss (the other came against BYU on Mar. 24), but even so, it looked like they might not advance after the first two rotations.
Beginning on what is considered to be the hardest opening event, the Utes succeeded in making it through the lineup without a fall. However, nerves showed up in everyone's routine except Postell, who finished the set with a beautifully executed 9.85, and Onodi--a 9.8 scorer from the No. 2 position. Utah's 48.8 first-rotation score trailed Alabama (49.275) and Michigan (49.1), while leading Oklahoma (48.75). Starting out on byes were Nebraska and LSU.
After finishing on beam, Utah headed to its first bye. During the break, the Utes dropped to fifth in the one-event standings. LSU scored a 49.20 on floor to move into second and Nebraska's 49.075 on bars allowed the Huskers to bump Michigan from second to fourth.
The Utes returned from the bye in similar fashion to how they began the meet: no falls, but some deductions throughout the lineup. On the floor exercise, both Baskett (9.75) and Hofmann (9.75) stepped out of bounds--costing them a critical tenth of a point each. Lead-off Riffanacht (9.75) and Postell (9.9) were the only ones to compete their routines without a hitch and Postell's tumbling was absolutely spectacular.
With two scores in from every team, Utah remained in fifth place--0.15 out of the critical third position. The two-event standings looked like this: Alabama 98.275, LSU 98.10, Nebraska 97.90, Michigan 97.85, Utah 97.75 and Oklahoma 97.675.
Utah showed plenty of pop on its third event--the vault. Hofmann ignited the team by absolutely nailing her vault as the No. 2 competitor. Her 9.875 was her second-best score of the entire season. The Utes were off and running then to a 49.30 team total, as Hofmann's launch was followed by big vaults from Kim (9.8), Ford (9.875), Baskett (9.85) and Postell (9.9). Vault allowed the Utes to move into a tie with Michigan for third place, both with 147.05 three-event totals. Alabama was suddenly in reach at 147.175. Oklahoma (146.55) stayed at the back of the pack, while Nebraska and LSU sat out with a bye.
Utah marched out to its final bye rotation and, again, a lot transpired while the Utes relaxed in the locker room. The three-score totals shifted around as Nebraska moved into first place with a 147.225 and LSU sank to fifth (146.75). Done for the day were Alabama (196.25) and Michigan (196.00).
A great bar set pushed Utah past Michigan and into the finals. Baskett's winning 9.90 routine came from the No. 4 position and Postell (9.875) and Ford (9.85) joined her as first-team All-Americans at the end of the lineup.