MINNEAPOLIS The top-ranked Utah gymnastics team overcame injuries and two falls off the balance beam to beat No. 25 Minnesota 195.275-194.450 on Saturday in the Sports Pavilion.
Ute coach Greg Marsden was pleased with the meet, despite Utah's lowest score of the year one that should drop the Utes out of the top spot when the new rankings are released tonight.
"I thought we did a great job other than the obvious mistakes the two falls on beam," said Marsden. "The scoring was very tight. There wasn't a 9.9 all night and some of our routines were the best we've done all year. I'm not complaining at all. It is just an observation about the quality of our routines overall."
Despite an unusual lineup, brought on by injuries to three starters, Utah sailed through its first three events, "hitting" all 18 routines and piling up a 146.825-145.425 lead.
Kristen Riffanacht, back in the lineup after missing the last meet with a hamstring injury, made it 19-19 with her 9.775 routine on the beam. But the injury-altered beam lineup encountered problems after Riffanacht's set.
Freshman Katie Kivisto and senior Gritt Hofmann competing in place of Nicolle Ford (bruised heel) and Gabriella Onodi (ankle injury) both had falls.
Stepping up and stopping the slide was sophomore Rachel Tidd. Nearly flawless, Tidd landed a 9.825, which would be good enough to win the event. Next up was Annabeth Eberle, who recovered from a low-tuck front mount to score a 9.75.
Ashley Postell, faced with the pressure of teammate falls for the second straight meet, finished strong with a 9.80, despite confessing to a bad case of nerves.
The meet gave Marsden a chance to crow about his team's depth.
"We have to be able to use different lineups and still win," he said. "We haven't had this kind of depth in past years and that has hurt us."
He needed every bit of that depth. Midway through the pre-meet warm-ups, he lost his third athlete to injury (the others were Natalie Nicoloff and Onodi) when All-America all-arounder Ford miscalculated her approach to the vault and crashed into the standard, bruising her heel. The only event she competed on was the bars, where "Nikki had her best routine of the season," according to Marsden. She scored 9.825, which tied her for first with Postell.
Despite going without a fall for the first three rotations, Utah received its lowest score of the season on vault and bars and its second-worst on the floor. Its beam score was also a season low.
Individually, Postell stayed undefeated (4-0) in the all-around, even while scoring a season-low 39.250. She needed every 10th to edge Tidd, who competed in just her second all-around of the year, placing second with a 39.225. In third was Eberle with 39.150.
Three Utes recorded season highs. Freshman Jessica Duke scored a 9.75 on her first collegiate vault to count, Riffanacht had a season-best 9.775 on vault and Kivisto's 9.70 floor routine was her personal best.
Postell (all-around and bars) and Tidd (vault and beam) were two-event winners for the Utes, with Ford tying Postell on the bars and Eberle tying Tidd on the vault. Utah improved to 5-0 on the season and 3-0 on the road with its fourth victory over a top 25 team this year.
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