Utah was all smiles after taking second at the NCAA Gymnastics Championships.
April 21, 2006
SALT LAKE CITY -
The Utah gymnastics team performed one of the most stunning turnarounds in the sport's history to place second at the NCAA Championships. Utah came into the championships seeded 11th of 12 teams, slipped into Super Six as the final qualifier, and stuttered on its opening event of team finals. But when the dust cleared, Utah's furious finish resulted in the program's best finish since 2000.
Georgia won the title as expected with a 197.75, followed by the underdog Utes (196.80) and Alabama (196.725). Rounding out the field were Florida (196.275), Nebraska (196.175) and Iowa State (194.725).
Sitting in a distant third after completing their final rotation, the Utes sat out on a bye while the meet wrapped up and watched Nebraska and Florida take a stab at catching them. Down a nearly insurmountable 0.65 of a point to second-place Alabama, no one envisioned anything better than a bronze. But the balance beam proved Utah's silver lining, where it posted the highest score of the night three rotations earlier. The beam came through again in the end as Alabama's fourth and fifth competitors both fell, shooting Utah into second place.
Utah's hopes were high before trouble in the middle of the bar lineup made a top-three finish unlikely. Certainly Dominique D'Oliveira and Jessica Duke started Utah off with a bang. D'Oliveira finished her career on a high note by tying her season high on the bars with a 9.775 and Duke followed with a 9.80 routine. Freshman Nina Kim ran into trouble, though, and scored a 9.65--a score the Utes were forced to count when Ashley Postell, the all-around runner-up from the night before, fell on her landing.
Postell and the Utes recovered in a big way on their second event, absolutely nailing the balance beam in an amazing 49.325 effort. In certainly one of the most dominating performances ever on the beam at the NCAA Championships, all six Utes leapt, tumbled and somersaulted as though the beam were four feet rather than four inches wide. Utah's 49.325 on the scary event would hold up as the best of the night. Two seniors competing on the balance beam for the final time of their careers made the most of it. Kristen Riffanacht started Utah off with a 9.725 followed by a picture perfect 9.80 from Gabriella Onodi. And things only got better. Kim bounced back with a 9.85, and senior Gritt Hofmann chipped in a 9.825. The icing on the cake was the show put on by Ford (9.90) and Postell (9.95).
Utah blasted out of its bye on the floor. Other than a step out of bounds by Baskett, who scored a 9.675 from the No. 3 position, the Utes were near the top of their game. Riffanacht closed her career in fine style, leading off with a 9.75. Kim rocked for the second straight event, scoring a 9.825. Utah finished with a 9.875 from both Ford and Postell and Hofmann's final floor routine went for a 9.85. Utah scored a 49.175 on the mat to boost its three-event score to 147.45.
Utah stayed on fire on its final event, scoring a 49.35 on the vault and finished before anyone else with a 196.80. Duke started the set with her best vault of the postseason--a 9.80. Hofmann finished her storied career with a 9.75 and then the fireworks began. Kim belted out a 9.90, Ford scored a 9.825 and Baskett exploded for a 9.95. Postell closed the night with a 9.875 and Utah headed to the bye room happy despite what the final rotation may bring.
With three scores in from every team, here's what the standings looked like: Georgia 148.10, Alabama 148.075, Utah 147.45, Nebraska 147.30, Florida 147.125 and Iowa State 145.825. The big gap between second and third wouldn't survive and Utah hoisted the silver.