CORVALLIS, Ore. Utah head coach Greg Marsden remarked earlier in the week that this year's team had the talent to win its first national title since 1995, if it just stayed healthy. He may have a point. Top-ranked Utah, with Ashley Postell and Rachel Tidd back from illness and injury, beat No. 13 Oregon State 195.95-194.20 before a partisan Gill Coliseum crowd of 3,317.
Though the Utes weren't perfect they had a fall on all four events, but didn't have to count any they were measurably better than in last week's victory at Utah State.
"I thought we had more fight in us tonight (than last week)," Marsden said. "It wasn't a perfect meet, but I didn't see anyone give up or cop an attitude. I was impressed with how we got ourselves out of a hole on every event. People picked up the pieces and didn't let the falls snowball."
Postell and Tidd proved the difference-makers. A freshman, Postell won her second all-around in as many attempts by scoring a 39.450. She also captured the vault (9.85), beam (9.875) and floor (9.875) titles. Tidd, who won vault and bars in her only previous competition against UCLA, followed up with a victory on bars (9.90) and was .025 out of a tie for first on vault with a 9.825.
"What was particularly impressive about Rachel's performance was that she hasn't had much preparation," said Marsden. Tidd has battled a back injury for a month.
Senior all-American Annabeth Eberle, who entered the week tied for first in the nation in the all-around with Postell, gave her a run for her all-around money again. Eberle trailed Postell by a slender 29.575-29.500 margin after three events. A small slip on her beam mount cost Eberle on the final event, where she scored a 9.775 to Postell's 9.875. Eberle tied with Postell for first on vault with a 9.85.
For the second straight week, Utah started the meet with a fall. Kristen Riffanacht, who replaced Dominique D'Oliveira as the leadoff on bars, had a similar result as D'Oliveira did last week at Utah State. But this time the Utes recovered nicely. Freshman Katie Kivisto got things back on track with a 9.725 routine and Eberle (9.80), Postell (9.85), Tidd (9.90) and Ford (9.85) took it from there, giving Utah a 49.125-48.625 lead after one event. Tidd won the event, her second bars victory in as many attempts this season.
The return of Tidd to the vault lineup made an impact similar to her victorious return on bars. Eberle and Postell tied for first on the event with a 9.85, but Tidd's third-place 9.825 was a beauty as well. Ford suffered a rare fall, her first on any event this season, from the No. 3 position. Fortunately, Gabriella Onodi and a 9.80 Gritt Hofmann preceded her with solid scores. After two events, it was Utah 49.125, OSU 48.625.
Round 3 also went to the Utes, by a hair 48.925-48.875. Ford and Hofmann scored well below normal, due to poor landings on their double backs. But Postell (9.875) and Eberle (9.85) kept up their torrid pace. Onodi gave a boost from her No. 2 position with perhaps her best performance of the season. The junior scored a 9.80 just off her career-high of 9.825.
Utah pulled away in the final event, scoring a 48.975 on the balance beam to Oregon State's 47.95 on floor when the Beavers had to count a fall.