The team had a great time at the annual banquet in downtown Salt Lake City.
April 26, 2004
SALT LAKE CITY -
Utah senior gymnast Melissa Vituj's incredible career came to a fitting close at the annual team banquet, when she was named the school's first three-time Most Valuable Performer. Vituj, an 11-time All-American, shared the MVP award with junior Annabeth Eberle for the second straight year. Vituj also shared the award as a freshman in 2001 (with former Ute Deidra Graham).
Vituj and Eberle led Utah to a 13-1 regular season record, the NCAA South Region championship and a berth in the NCAA Super Six team finals on April 16. Vituj won the regional all-around and balance beam championships and then earned All-America honors in the all-around, on the floor exercise and on the balance beam at the NCAA Championships. In the final routine of her career, she tied for third in the nation on the floor exercise. Vituj won 20 individual or all-around titles in 2004 and received three perfect 10.00 scores (one on beam and two on floor).
Eberle was named the 2004 NCAA Region Gymnast of the Year and was Utah's highest individual placer at the NCAA Championships in Los Angeles-finishing second on the vault. Despite missing two and a half meets with an ankle injury, Eberle led the team with 21 victories. She scored three perfect 10.0s-all on the vault-and made it through the entire regular season without a fall.
Also singled out for recognition at the banquet were sophomore Kristen Riffanacht, who won the Diane Ellingson Most Inspirational Award; and freshmen Nicolle Ford (Coaches' Award) and Rachel Tidd (Dahl Award for Academic Excellence).
Established in honor of Diane Ellingson, a member of Utah's first national championship team, the award bearing her name honors Utah's Most Inspirational Gymnast. Riffanacht won the award after an exceptional sophomore season that saw her go from a two-event specialist to an all-arounder. Once a long shot to compete on the balance beam, she won a place in the lineup by midseason and became a second-team All-American at the national championships.
The Coaches' Award was established to honor the gymnast who, "by discipline and hard work, demonstrates the greatest improvement during the season." Ford won the award for an outstanding freshman season that culminated in her becoming Utah's only two-time first-team All-American at the 2004 NCAA Championships. She hit both of her routines in the individual event finals, placing 12th on the balance beam and tying for fourth on the uneven bars. Her finish on bars was particularly impressive in a star-studded field that included five Olympians. She was also named a second-team All-American in the all-around.
Trix and Rainer Dahl established an award in their name to honor "that gymnast who most distinguishes herself both academically and athletically." Tidd became just the third Ute freshman ever to receive the award when she earned a 4.0 GPA fall semester and fared equally well on the competitive floor. Tidd was not allowed to compete at the national championships due to mono, which prevented her from building on her success at the regional championships, where she placed first on the vault. She scored a perfect 10.0 on the vault on March 19 and her 39.675 all-around best is tied for ninth in school history.