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Cougs Red Rocked — Record crowd sees Utes down BYU on senior night

SHARE Cougs Red Rocked — Record crowd sees Utes down BYU on senior night

It was kind of like old times Friday night in the Huntsman Center when there were so many positives it's hard to count them all.

An all-time national-record gymnastics crowd of 15,447 came to watch one of the all-time best Utes — Ashley Postell didn't disappoint, scoring a 10.0 on beam and winning four events on her senior night to tie for the most career event victories in Ute history with Theresa Kulikowski — as well as to see a native Utahn complete her last meet at home and the third senior, Katie Kivisto, have one of her best floor routines ever.

Also part of the allure for an overflow crowd (the Huntsman seats 15,000) that may get the fire marshal involved was that the opponent was BYU, always a big draw for the Utes, and that this Ute team has so completely transformed itself since last year.

Second-ranked Utah, 12-1, completed the regular season without having to count a fall — thought to be a school record — and even though it did have a couple falls that didn't count Friday, it came up with a 197.10-193.85 victory over the No. 28, 6-10-1 Cougars, its third-best home score of the season.

Last season, the Utes had two or three falls in one event in almost every meet until the postseason, when they wound up taking second in the NCAA championships.

Utah coach Greg Marsden likened the feel of this season to the way things were back in the early 1990s when some of the biggest names in Ute history were performing — Missy Marlowe, Shelly Schaerrer, Kristen Kenoyer, Suzanne Metz and company.

Kulikowski (1999-2003) won 112 event titles in her career, and Postell matched that Friday with at least a regional meet left for her to surpass it, assuming she stays healthy. The regionals will be April 12, with the assignments to be revealed Monday afternoon.

BYU is also regional-eligible, despite Friday's performance.

Postell — who won all-around (39.725), vault (9.925), beam (10.0) and floor (9.90) — is just one shy of Kulikowski's school record of 40 event wins in a single season and holds the school mark for career all-around wins (28). She has nine all-around wins in 2008, and the school record for a season belongs to Metz at 11, at which Postell has a shot if Utah makes it to nationals — and it has never not gone to nationals.

Utah's former attendance record, which was also the national mark, was 15,238 on Feb. 11, 1991, and the last time Utah topped 15,000 was 1993. It now has four 15,000+ attendances, and this one gave the Utes their 24th national season attendance record out of the 27 kept.

Postell and her senior classmates were happy to get the senior night done. "It was really stressful," said Postell, who came into warm-ups in a bad mood that reminded Marsden of the way she'd been against Oregon State, when she had her first two falls of the season. But she handled this night far better, though she wasn't perfectly pleased with her beam routine. "That's just me. You know how I am," she said later. "It's what the judges gave me — I'm on their side," she said, finally able to laugh after the meet.

Duke, of Sandy, whose parents both went to BYU but wore red Friday night, hadn't practiced all week because she'd hurt her back last Friday, but she was able to relax on her one routine because she wasn't expecting anything. She scored 9.85 with one of her better bar routines, said Marsden. She was happy to do so well "in front of all those people doing the thing I love."

And Kivisto had a little slip on the floor but totaled 9.725 in her last Huntsman Center routine, upgrading to "her biggest routine in terms of difficulty," Marsden said.

"It sounds cheesy," said Kivisto, "but I didn't always know I'd get here." She nearly quit gymnastics after her sophomore season but chose to stick it out and was happy she did.

The meet also saw junior Kristina Baskett score a career-high 9.975 to win the bars title, the only one Postell didn't take. "It was exciting for me to see a 10," she said — one judge gave her a 10.0 and the other a 9.95. "Maybe I'll get to see two 10s" sometime, said the 2006 NCAA bars co-champion.

There was a scary moment for each team. Utah's Daria Bijak hyperextended a knee landing her vault and fell, but the German who's had several knee surgeries in the past came back and competed in all the other events.

For BYU, Alethea Boon's sore wrist didn't support her and she fell on bars but ended up going all-around (38.075) when she wasn't supposed to because a teammate turned an ankle.

BYU coach Brad Cattermole and Marsden both said they don't think Friday night's scores will matter to either of them as far as Monday's final regular-season rankings, which will determine their seedings for regional competition. Marsden guesses Utah will likely be sent to the Minnesota regional, even if it should fall to third in the rankings.

E-mail: lham@desnews.com