Ashley Postell's 9.925 on the beam secured second place for the Utes.
April 27, 2007
SALT LAKE CITY -
All season long, Utah's inconsistent and frequently under-performing gymnastics team insisted it would get it right in the end. The young Utes made believers out of a crowd of 9,255 in the Huntsman Center on April 27, when they captured second place at the NCAA Championships.
It marked the second straight runner-up finish for Utah, which surged past favored Florida on the final routine of the final event. Utah needed every tenth of its monumental 49.40 finish on the beam to edge the Gators, 197.250-197.225. Georgia took first with a 197.85. Placing fourth through sixth were UCLA (196.925), Stanford (196.825) and Nebraska (195.975).
Just a few short weeks ago, many questioned whether Utah would even get a chance to perform before its famous home crowd at the NCAA Championships. Unlike a year ago, when Utah entered the championships ranked No. 2 and lived up to expectations, this year's squad spent most of the year dropping in the rankings. That all changed when the postseason rolled around. Utah, which hadn't hit all 24 routines in a meet the entire year, or scored above a 196.0, suddenly put together three 197-plus meets once the NCAA party began.
"I am so proud of this team," said head coach Greg Marsden. "Six weeks ago, we questioned whether we would even qualify for the championships. Everyone pulled together when it really counted."
Certainly they did on the balance beam, where Utah ended the competition for the second straight night. Hovering in the middle of the pack after an atypically tough bar set, the Utes turned it on once they hit the beam. The highlights included a career-high 9.90 by sophomore Nina Kim. But, as has happened so often in her career, the meet hinged on Ashley Postell's closing beam routine. Nicknamed "Money" by the coaching staff who banks on her clutch performances, Postell's 9.925 routine pushed Utah past the Gators and into second place. Florida entered the meet ranked No. 1 in the nation.
After starting the meet on a bye, Utah opened its competition on the floor, where it overcame an early scare on an apparatus that caused it fits right up to the postseason. Katie Kivisto led off with a solid 9.775 before Rizzo - who won All-America honors just one day earlier - got things temporarily untracked with a step out of bounds and a 9.55 score. But Annie DiLuzio righted the Utes with a 9.85 and Ford lived it up, scoring a 9.90 in her final Huntsman Center floor routine. Baskett matched Ford's tally, opening the door for Postell, who blasted through it with a 9.95. The result was a 49.375, putting Utah in the mix. Also in its first action, Georgia took the lead with a 49.425 on the bars.
Off to vault went the Utes, where they wouldn't match the last night's score (a 49.50), but did pump out a 49.375. Nina Kim opened the set with her second-straight 9.85, and Shire and DiLuzio followed with 9.875s. A step on her landing cost Ford a big score, as she received a 9.80. Baskett and Postell got credit for their form and amplitude with a pair of 9.90s.
For the only time until the meet's conclusion, all six teams had completed the same number of rotations - and incredibly - all were above a 98.00 at the midway point. Leading the way in a tie were Utah and Georgia (98.75), followed closely by Florida (98.55), Stanford (98.325), UCLA (98.250) and Nebraska (98.225).
Utah headed back to the bye area and came back to see the ante had been upped. The first to post three-rotation scores were Florida (147.95), Stanford (147.575), UCLA (147.525) and Nebraska (147.15).
The wheels wobbled upon Utah's return to action on what had been a consistently strong apparatus all year for the team. Kim's leadoff bar routine was marred by a big stumble on her dismount and she scored a 9.65 - a score that Utah would have to count when Daria Bijak fell on her dismount after a 9.825 by Jessica Duke. Postell (9.875), Baskett (9.85) and Ford (9.90) seemed unfazed by the early problems, but the damage was done. With three events totaled in, the Utes (147.85) slipped to third behind Georgia (148.325) and Florida (147.95).
Not to worry. Every Ute scored a 9.825 or better, with Nina Kim tying a career-high with a 9.90, Ford nailing a 9.875 in her final college beam routine and Postell finishing with a 9.925.