At last, U. gymnasts win in Ann Arbor

But coach Marsden is still less than impressed with team

Published: Sunday, Feb. 12 2006 12:00 a.m. MST

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Finally, the University of Utah gymnastics team beat Michigan in Ann Arbor.

However, the route the Utes took to a 196.400-196.100 victory — their first road win over the Wolverines in five tries — received a lukewarm response from coach Greg Marsden. He fretted that his second-ranked Utes again flirted with a loss by falling off an apparatus, even while improving to 7-0 and beating the nation's No. 4 team.

Utah held a comfortable four-tenths of a point lead going into its final event of the night, the balance beam. But normally steady Nina Kim and Gritt Hofmann fell in back-to-back routines and the lead all but disappeared. Only huge routines by Nicolle Ford (9.875) and Ashley Postell (9.90) to finish the night allowed Utah to escape with a win.

"I wanted a clean meet on the road and we're still struggling to go without counting a fall (on an apparatus)," Marsden said. "We find a different place to make mistakes every meet. I don't see anything good."

He later praised his final two beam performers.

"Nicolle and Ashley are our closers and they're great at that. We put them in that position way too much though," he said.

He was referring to falls at the Nos. 3 and 4 positions.

"Gritt and Nina are absolute rocks on that event," said Marsden. "They never miss on beam. The fact remains, though, that they both made mistakes on the same night."

The falls followed fine beam routines from the first two competitors — Gabriella Onodi (9.85) and Kristen Riffanacht (9.80).

Riffanacht also played a part in Ford's crucial effort on the beam.

"I thought it was over when (Kim and Hofmann) fell," said Ford. "But Riffy talked to me before my routine and told me that if we had any chance of recovering, I needed to hit every little thing."

Ford tied for first in the all-around, scoring a 39.375. Postell knocked herself out of contention with a fall on the floor.

"Ashley has not handled her new floor routine well on the road," said Marsden. "I'm wondering if she's not quite ready and that the home crowd gets her adrenaline going enough to get her through it in the Huntsman Center."

The fall overshadowed an otherwise stellar night by Postell, who won vault (9.875) and beam (9.90), while scoring a 9.85 on bars. Hofmann won the floor title (9.875). Jessica Duke turned in a career-best 9.90 on bars, good for a third-place tie and Utah's best score on that event.

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