Veronique Leclerc saved her best for last, placing third in the nation on the bars.
April 26, 2003
LINCOLN, Neb. -
Veronique Leclerc finished third in the nation on the uneven bars and the University of Utah gymnastics team was represented well by all three of its available qualifiers to the NCAA Gymnastics individual event championships. Annabeth Eberle finished sixth on vault and Melissa Vituj was ninth on the floor exercise. Three-time NCAA champion Theresa Kulikowski, who injured her shoulder during team finals on Friday, was unable to compete for another national title, although she had qualified on both bars and beam.
First up for the Utes was sensational sophomore Annabeth Eberle, who finished sixth in the vault competition, receiving an average score of a 9.8565 on her two vaults. Both vaults had plenty of amplitude though she took a small step on her landing each time. A step on the landing was consistent throughout the 10-person field, with only winner Ashley Miles (9.9375) of Alabama completely sticking her first vault. Eberle attempted two 10.0 valued vaults, the first a Yurchenko one half front layout, and the second a Yurchenko layout full.
Eberle concluded a magnificent season as a two-time first-team All-American having tied for fourth in the all-around on Thursday. She also earned second-team All-America honors on the uneven bars.
The next Ute, junior Veronique Leclerc, drew the lead-off bar position. Saddled with the least desired lineup spot, Leclerc nonetheless turned in a beauty. Her routine, while scored at a 9.863, set a high standard for others to follow and held up as the second best score (there was a first place tie) of the night. Tying for the uneven bar championship were UCLA Olympians Kate Richardson and Jamie Dantzscher, with 9.90's.
Utah's final competitor of the night was junior Melissa Vituj, who increased her All-America portfolio to eight at this championships by making the first team on floor and the second team in the all-around (tying for ninth). Vituj twisted and flipped to a 9.825 score and a ninth-place finish in a red hot floor exercise field. Capturing the floor exercise title was Richelle Simpson of Nebraska with a 9.963.
The only event where Utah was not represented was the balance beam, ironically the apparatus where it is most renowned. However, Utah's string of beam finalists dating back to at least 1980 (when Utah began keeping records), remains intact since Kulikowski qualified for beam finals. In the absence of Utah's two-time NCAA beam champion, UCLA's Kate Richardson claimed the title with a 9.938.