LOGAN — The No. 1-ranked University of Utah gymnastics team bumbled and slumbered through the first three events against Utah State, waking up barely in time to shake the unranked Aggies, 195.675-193.850.
The win was nothing like the performance the Utes (2-0) put on in beating two-time defending NCAA champion UCLA last week. That was the problem, admitted Ute head coach Greg Marsden.
"I could come up with a lot of excuses that would make sense," said Marsden, whose lineup was without two of its heavy hitters. "But the reality is I think we had a letdown after last week. There was so much buildup for that first meet, and when it was over, we didn't come to practice for this meet ready to perform at the same level. Blame it on the coaches. We need to have our team ready to compete week in and week out."
Utah's score was a full two points lower than the 197.675 it scored to beat UCLA (197.300) last Friday. Chances are the Utes would have taken a bit of a dip even if they hadn't had to count a fall on floor given an adjusted lineup. Sophomore Rachel Tidd, who won both vault and bars last week, scoring a 9.95 on each, re-injured her back on Monday and could not compete. Ashley Postell, tied for the nation's best all-around with teammate Annabeth Eberle last week, came down sick and could only compete on the vault. Also out due to illness was beam lead-off Natalie Nicoloff.
But no one anticipated a meet so close that a poor final event by the Utes might have resulted in the first Aggie victory in the series since 1979. Utah led by 0.875 entering the balance beam and was coming off a lousy floor performance (48.475). But the Utes seemed to snap out of their lethargy and the result was a solid 49.200 score — their best of the night.
"We finally showed up on beam," said Marsden. "I wish we hadn't waited so long. Other than beam, I would characterize our performance as lackluster."
Kristen Riffanacht led off Utah's final event with a 9.775, followed by freshman Katie Kivisto's 9.70 in her first beam routine to count. Last week, Kivisto fell as an exhibition performer. The final four took it to another level. Junior Gabriella Onodi, in what beam coach Megan Marsden termed, "the best routine Gabi's ever done," tied her career high with a 9.85. Gritt Hofmann came close to her own career best with a 9.90, giving the Utes a bit of breathing room. After a career-best 9.95 by beam all-American Nicolle Ford, the meet was decided. Eberle finished the competition with a 9.725.
Ford was the only Ute on top of her game, winning the all-around with a 39.55, the beam (9.95) and bars (9.875), and tying for first on floor with USU's Megan Tschida (9.85). Ford placed second on the vault to Postell. Postell scored a 9.90 in her only routine, while Ford scored a 9.875.
"Last week I focused too much on what I was doing," said Ford. "This week I tried not to think about my routines."
UTAH 195.675, UTAH STATE 193.850
1. Nicolle Ford, Utah, 39.550; 2. Megan Tschida, USU, 39.100; 3. Kristen Riffanacht, Utah, 38.875.
Utah 49.075, USU 48.775
1. Ashley Postell, Utah, 9.900; 2. Nicolle Ford, Utah, 9.875; 3. Annabeth Eberle, Utah, 9.850; 3. Jackie Fogli, USU, 9.850.
Utah 48.925, USU 48.275
1. Nicolle Ford, Utah, 9.875; 2. Annabeth Eberle, Utah, 9.850; 3. Katie Kivisto, Utah, 9.825.
Utah, 49.200 USU 48.550
1. Nicolle Ford, Utah, 9.950; 2. Gritt Hofmann, Utah, 9.900; 3. Gabriella Onodi, Utah, 9.850.
Utah 48.475, USU 48.250
1. Megan Tschida, USU, 9.850; 1. Nicolle Ford, Utah, 9.850; 3. Gritt Hofmann, Utah, 9.775.