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BYU trying to get healthy; Utes upgrading their skills

Published: Friday, Feb. 24 2006 12:14 a.m. MST

PROVO — Teams are still getting used to the judging code of points that went into effect for the women's collegiate gymnastics 2006 season.

When it was mentioned by judges last week that they took a deduction on University of Utah gymnast Kristen Riffanacht's floor routine for an imbalance between dance and acro difficulty, it changed two Ute routines.

They're not major changes, but Riffanacht and Ashley Postell will both debut their altered floor routines, with more difficult dance skills, tonight as the third-ranked, 8-0 Utes meet a young and injured 3-4 BYU squad that is coming off its best score.

Tonight's meet is at 7 in the Marriott Center.

BYU is unranked this week as ratings shifted to Regional Qualifying Score, and the Cougars have not had enough meets for three home and three away scores that comprise the RQS. Tonight's will give them enough of each to make next week's rankings.

The Cougars recently lost three-event athlete Aimee Walker Pond to a broken ankle and Kendra Stephenson to a torn knee meniscus, but they had a season-best 194.525 in a loss Monday night at Boise State (194.775). They are still trying to deal with graduation losses of two big-time athletes, Jaime Mabray and Kirsten Pauga.

In its Monday meet, BYU set season highs on bars (48.90) and beam (48.875), and six athletes had career- or season-high scores led by Kylee Draper (9.850) and Jennifer Matthews (9.750), both career-bests on bars.

Kacie Capra (38.975) has BYU's best all-around score. Utah's best is 39.55 by Postell and Nicolle Ford.

Despite their personnel woes, Cougar assistant coach Dawn Cattermole said, "They really are excited to (tonight's) meet because it's on TV (live on BYU TV) and we're up against the Utes. It's a big deal to them. They've all got good attitudes."

Noting Cougar difficulties, Utah coach Greg Marsden said, "They've had a hard time being consistent. My understanding is they really haven't hit a meet yet. If they're scoring (194-plus) and counting falls, if they hit a meet, they're up in the 195-196 range, which is very competitive with anybody."

"They always kind of give us a good run for the money and always have a good crowd and stuff," said Ute co-captain Riffanacht.

The Utes are trying to gain consistency themselves, especially on the road because they've counted or at least had a poor event in all four so far.

"We just need to go out there and be consistent and compete on the road with confidence," said Riffanacht. "We're all pretty frustrated about it. Having a fall reflects on our score, and the team, and we've got to clean those up."

The Utes know they won't have a home meet in the postseason to help them, so they need to learn soon how to put it together away from the Huntsman Center.

The Utes even had some surprising errors in their home meet last week when Postell had a floor fall and Ford left out some things in two events and got start values of 9.8.

"(Ford) doesn't like what happened the other night, so she came in on fire," said Marsden of this week's practices. "They both did. (Ford) was on fire and working upgrades and was back to being Nikki."

Despite Postell's several falls on floor, her routine was reworked a bit this week, along with Riffanacht's, to gain more dance/acro balance and to make it look smoother before her final tumbling pass.

"She's trying to do a lot in that routine," Marsden said, willing to let her work through it because her difficulty is major. But he also told her, "It's great that you want to do all this, but understand that the judges will not reward you unless it's done as perfectly as people who are doing much less."

For both Riffanacht and Postell, some lesser-scoring dance moves have been replaced by more elite elements, and some dance has been added. "With both those girls, we made that change this week so we avoid that possible deduction," Marsden said.

"It's a new emphasis this year with this code. Some judges are going to look for those types of things, and others are not. You want to have your bases covered. We met the basic requirement on both of them, but I can see now that a judge mentioned it that someone who likes to see more balance between dance and acro, that would open us up to that criticism. We want to try to avoid that."


E-mail: lham@desnews.com

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