Utes host Gym Dogs in battle of unbeatens

Published: Monday, March 6 2006 12:00 a.m. MST

Utah sophomore gymnast Ashley Postell competed on the U.S. team in the 2002 World Championships with Courtney Kupets, now a freshman at Georgia. Each won an individual world championship, Kupets on bars and Postell on beam.

Postell went briefly to the same club as Kupets, a 2004 U.S. Olympian, and her older sister Ashley, also a Gym Dog, and she was clubmates with Georgia sophomore Katie Heenan.

"It's just kind of like a reunion. I'm always excited to see people that I know," said Postell about tonight's meeting of the unbeatens when No. 1-ranked, 13-0 Georgia invades the Huntsman Center at 7 for the first time in the regular season since 1991 to meet the third-ranked, 9-0 Utes.

"It's been way too long," Georgia coach Suzanne Yoculan said of the time between dual meets between Georgia and Utah in the Huntsman Center, where the Gym Dogs won two of their six NCAA titles. Utah, with a national-record 10 national titles, won six at home and one at Georgia.

Postell claims a good deal of nervousness about this meet, adding, "It's good to be nervous because if you're going in there not at all, I'd probably do really bad because nervousness is what makes me get going."

But she says she feels no extra motivation over seeing old teammates again.

Coach Greg Marsden isn't so sure.

"I know she likes those people a great deal, but it's like when you go out back with your best friend, one-on-one, with the goal on the driveway," he said. "Sometimes some of those are the fiercest competitions, and Ashley is a competitive person, so I can't imagine that there's not some of that going on.

"But I don't know if she'll admit it."

Postell did say, "Their coming to our house makes us really want it bad."

At the 2002 worlds, competition in vault and bars was held the first day, with beam and floor on the second. Postell finished sixth in vault and was inspired by Kupets' bars championship.

"It was fun," Postell said. "It was really exciting to see her win that day, just looking at her and seeing that I had a chance. It made me really excited."

Tonight, Postell and her Ute teammates have bit of a score to settle with the Gym Dogs. The two teams, whose coaches feuded for years in the 1990s, resumed their home-and-home schedule last year, when Utah fell 197.275-197.15 in Athens, thought it got the raw end of the scoring deal and said so.

Nicolle Ford, now a co-captain, said something about, "Wait till Georgia comes to our house." Now, the Utes hope to back that up.

"I can't wait for it to get here," Ford said. "It's going to be scary and exciting at the same time. I think we're ready for it though, just because it's Georgia, after what happened last year. I opened my mouth. Hope I don't have to eat my words."

Most of that is forgotten now, and Marsden, whose team is reasonably healthy now, including the finger Ford dislocated a week ago Sunday, just wants both teams to have a good outing so they can measure where they are with the postseason just a month away.

"They are obviously right now the best team in the country. I want to see where we stack up with them," he said of the defending NCAA champions.

Marsden also hopes that this is the meet that finally presents enough of a challenge for his team to put together a complete meet. It hasn't lost, but it hasn't been its best most of the season. "If this doesn't do it, nothing will," he said.

"I'm sure scores will be going back and forth," said Postell. "One minute we might be up, one minute we might be down. But that's what makes it more interesting and more fun to watch, I think."


E-MAIL: lham@desnews.com

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