The code of points, the guideline for scoring gymnastics meets, is changed every four years. This year, the requirements for routines were stiffened to help separate the competitors more.
Utah junior Nicolle Ford, a four-time all-American who's been very consistent and who has one of the top 10 all-around scores in Ute history (39.65), was not about to let the new code separate her.
She knew her old floor exercise skills could jeopardize her scores under the new code, so she changed her middle and last tumbling passes to keep up with the times.
"The floor lineup has always been the toughest for me," said the co-captain. "Tumbling is not my strongest (thing), but with the floor routine I have now, I feel like I belong there."
With the old routine, she didn't think she'd be competitive, even among her team.
"Without the upgrades, I might not have even made the lineup," she said. "I didn't want to jeopardize my spot."
Ford should have a chance to show that new routine Friday night in the Huntsman Center when No. 3 Utah (2-0) holds its home opener at 7 against No. 6 Nebraska (4-1-1).
Her status for the meet is a little uncertain because of a puzzling wrist pain that cropped up over the past few weeks. An X-ray and an MRI showed nothing, and she has been cleared to do however much she can tolerate.
She held herself out of two events last week at Washington, hoping it would help, but this week the wrist has felt no better and no worse than before.
"I just did bars and beam," she said of the Washington meet. "Bars hurts it the least because it's not pounding, just holding on. On beam, I just changed my dismount to fix it. (Coach) Greg (Marsden) gave me the option to compete this last weekend, and I said I would rather go all-around at home."
It was a big sacrifice.
"I can't stand to sit on the sidelines and watch. That's not me," said the gymnast nicknamed "Queenie" because she was so good she was the queen of her Binghamton, N.Y., club gym, where she went back to teach last summer.
Ford voluntarily missed half of last week's meet because she wanted to perform for Utah's large and enthusiastic crowd. She's one who shines best when the spotlight is brightest.
"I need people," she said. "I need a crowd."
The adrenaline Ford derives from the big Ute crowd will soothe the sore wrist enough, she hopes, to get her through all four events, something she's very determined to do in her first home meet as co-captain of the team.
That position is another thing that lit a fire in Ford for this season.
"Being captain this year has definitely helped me," she said. "I know I've got to step it up, and I know I've got not only me to think about but the rest of the team as well."
She helps in meet preparation and in soothing the nerves of Utah's talented freshmen.
"It's pushed me knowing that I have a job to do besides my job," she said.
Ford thrives on pressure."I like to compete, so the nerves and pressure don't affect me in a bad way," she said. "Put me in a pressure situation, it's much better. If someone falls ahead of me, it gets me more fired up. If everybody hits, that's wonderful, too."
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