Annabeth Eberle's winning 9.95 vault was Utah's best score of the night.
April 24, 2003
LINCOLN, Neb. -
The University of Utah is headed for the NCAA Super Six after finishing second in the evening session of the NCAA Championships qualifying round. Utah scored a 196.850 to finish as runner-up behind host Nebraska and its 197.325. Georgia (196.625) was the other team to make it out of the hotly contested evening session.
The Utes did not count a fall and topped 49.00 on all four events in a consistent effort that virtually secured their berth in the team finals before the last rotation even started. That's because Utah and Georgia finished their competition with a bye and the Utes' victory over the Bulldogs meant both Florida and Stanford must come back from a 0.4 three-event deficit to topple the Utes to fourth.
Every Ute contributed in the biggest win of the season and several posted or flirted with season highs, despite the generally low scoring nature of the championships. Sophomore Annabeth Eberle made first-team All-American in the all-around, tying for fourth with a 39.475 (she tied for second in the evening session). The all-around is the only championship determined from Thursday's competition.
Eberle and three teammates-Melissa Vituj, Theresa Kulikowski and Veronique Leclerc-made first-team All-American on individual events and will compete for the individual championships on Saturday. Eberle qualified on vault through a first-place tie, Kulikowski on bars and beam, where she tied for first and second, respectively, Leclerc on bars, where she tied for first, and Vituj on floor (tie for third).
Utah started the meet off on the right foot, scoring a 49.125 on the floor exercise. Veronique Leclerc, using her old floor music for the first time this year, scored a 9.775. Next was a 9.825 effort from Kylee Wagner, her second-best score of the entire season on the mat. Kristen Riffanacht stepped out of bounds and was docked by the judges in a 9.575 routine that was tossed out of the equation when Gritt Hofmann (9.775), Annabeth Eberle (9.85) and Melissa Vituj (9.90) finished strong. After one rotation, Utah was right in the mix, trailing both Georgia and Stanford by just .025.
On its second event, Utah dazzled with its best vault set of the year, if not in score, in reality. The Utes, led by Eberle's magnificent 9.95 effort, stuck every vault stone cold solid for a 49.35. Kim Allan led off the great set with a 9.825. Wagner followed with her best vault of the season, a 9.875. Leclerc kept things going with a sharp 9.875 vault, her second-best score of the year and a score matched by Riffanacht. A very tiny step on the landing cost Vituj in an otherwise nice vault and she scored a 9.825. Anchor Eberle bumped Utah's final score up a notch with her 9.95, which would hold up as the best score of the session.
Utah headed into its first bye with a 98.475 total, edging ahead of Georgia, which came out of the beam with a 98.100 two-event total. But it was hometown favorite Nebraska, whose first event was floor after a first-round bye, which charged to the lead while Utah and Georgia were sitting out. Nebraska's 49.50 on floor was by far the best score of the first three rotations and a 49.375 on vault gave the Huskers a midpoint total of 98.875 and a huge lead. Florida and Stanford stayed right on Utah's heels after completing their second events, checking in at 98.225 and 98.125, respectively.
The Utes maintained their position coming off the bye, scoring a 49.250 on the uneven bars for 147.725 three-event total. Georgia stayed ahead of Stanford, 147.350-147.325 and Nebraska sat out with a bye. Utah failed to capitalize on a second chance effort that could have improved its score on the bars. Allan, who was struggling with her bar routine, suffered a broken grip and was granted a re-do by the judges. However, she fell on her landing and it was her score that was tossed out. Freshman Dominique D'Oliveira, competing in just her fourth routine to count all season, led things off with a beautiful 9.825 routine. Eberle followed with a high flying 9.875 and Vituj chipped in a 9.75. Leclerc continued her torrid postseason with a 9.90. After Allan's aborted first routine, Kulikowski nailed a 9.90 set. Leclerc and Kulikowski would tie for first with two others on bars when the night was finished.
The Utes did well enough on their final rotation to make sure they didn't beat themselves. Natalie Nicoloff set the tone with a 9.80 routine, followed by a 9.75 by Hofmann. Allan bounced back from her bar debacle to score a 9.775. Eberle had a wobble, but nailed her big stuff in a 9.80 and Vituj walked through a 9.85. Kulikowski made it look easy with her 9.90 to bring Utah's event total to a 49.125.
In the first session, No. 1 UCLA won as expected, scoring a 196.950. Alabama (196.775) and Michigan (196.125) were the other two teams to advance out of the preliminary session. The teams who failed to make the cut were Arizona State (194.225), Louisiana State (194.000) and Iowa (193.825). Three of the top four all-around finishers were UCLA Bruins, led by winner Jamie Dantzscher (39.65). In second was UCLA freshman Kate Richardson (39.525) and tied for fourth was Onnie Willis (39.300). In third was Jenna Rice of Alabama (39.475).