Utah's Ford will fight through pain

Published: Wednesday, March 1 2006 12:00 a.m. MST

Nicolle Ford has competed with broken fingers before, so she said she expects to be in the lineup Monday night when the No. 3, 9-0 Utes take on No. 1, 12-0 and defending NCAA champion Georgia in the Huntsman Center, despite a right index finger dislocated Sunday in a training accident.

It will be the Bulldogs' first dual-meet appearance in the Huntsman Center since 1991.

"It kind of grossed me out when it happened," Ford said Tuesday, adding she expects to be back on all or most of the apparatus for Thursday's workout after taking it easy for a couple of days.

She was practicing a release to the low bar and jammed the finger into the bar. She instinctively grabbed and pulled on it and put it back into place without even realizing what she was doing. She thinks getting the finger immediately realigned helped minimize the injury.

By Tuesday, "it's just really stiff," she said, but the swelling and discoloration had subsided. "I think it will be OK."

Ford is ranked seventh in the NCAA all-around, with a Regional Qualifying Score of 39.30 and a season high of 39.55. She ranks fifth on bars — the event on which she was hurt and which would be the hardest for her to compete with the dislocated finger — and sixth on balance beam.

"Big scare," admitted Utah coach Greg Marsden, who lost one possible bars competitor last week when senior Natalie Nicoloff tore a ligament in her right elbow, most likely ending her career.

"I know (Ford) is a really tough kid," Marsden added.

He said he's the skeptical type on injuries, hoping his athletes prove him wrong. "I'm not counting on her, but I wouldn't rule out anything from one to all four events.

"The only thing that worries me is just jarring it — the index finger is just hard to not involve in any hand stuff, whether you're doing the flick-flack stuff on beam or what. We just have to see if she's going to be able to tolerate that.

"Knowing 'Queenie,' I think it's going to be hard to keep her out of the lineup."

SUNDAY WORKOUT: Marsden held the unusual Sunday practice because he was quite unhappy with the way his team performed Friday night at BYU, despite getting its ninth straight win for its best start to a season since going 10-0 in 1999.

"I did not like at all their demeanor in warm-ups. I was concerned that somebody was going to get hurt. They just were not in a good place," Marsden said of the Provo meet.

The Utes have not had a strong road meet all season, and he is frustrated. "Yeah, with good reason," said Ford.

"We had a lot to prove down there, and we've hurt ourselves in a lot of ways," Marsden said. Rankings determine who competes where in the NCAA regionals, and road scores are important in the RQS.

"At some point, we've got to get it resolved, or we won't be at nationals," said Marsden, "and if we get to nationals, we won't be competitive. At this point of the season, you just should not be counting falls, and at this point of the season, to have our worst meet of the season, in terms of issues, was disappointing."

PACK IT IN: The NCAA attendance leader, Utah is going all-out hoping for a sellout crowd against Georgia Monday. It is selling tickets for $2, and it's expected they'll go before meet night, so it's suggested to purchase early. Utah has averaged 12,800 in its first three home meets in the 15,000-seat building.

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