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'Riffy' happy to upgrade tumbling pass

Published: Saturday, April 15 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

Utah gymnastics senior co-captain Kristen Riffanacht thought she had started her team off pretty well at last Saturday's NCAA Northeast Regional at Michigan, a meet that determined which two teams advanced to next week's NCAA championships at Oregon State.

"It wasn't a perfect floor routine," remembered Riffanacht, "but I knew it was a good routine, a good start for us. I walked off the floor and felt really good, and then I saw that, and I was like, well, what did I miss?"

Her score was 9.50, by far her lowest of the season, and judges' placards listed her start value at 9.80 instead of 10.0.

The head regional floor judge had noticed a technical lapse in her middle tumbling pass, graded her down and made other judges do the same.

Coach Greg Marsden questioned the meet referee, who checked with the head event judge, and the Utes learned that what they had thought was a unique tumbling pass didn't meet the code. "Your two-somersault pass, there has to be three elements," said Riffanacht this week as she reworked her routine. "I have to put a roundoff or a front handspring in front of whatever I do. We kind of thought with the run/punch-front layout we were being creative."

Riffanacht said it would take only a few times in practice to make the change and was glad she found out about it before next week. "I would hate to find that out in prelims and (have) something like that be the difference in us making finals. It's not a big deal. Just fix it," she said.

But she was sure puzzled at first. "When he told me, I was like, 'Shoot, that was one of my better routines, and that had to happen.' But I guess we just didn't realize," said "Riffy."

2007 TICKETS: For the first time, Utah gymnastics will begin selling tickets online for both the 2007 regular season and for the 2007 NCAA championships at Utah next April 26-28.

Tickets for the 2007 NCAA championships will go on sale on-line at www.Utahtickets.com on May 1, and people will be able to choose their desired seating locations from a diagram, said Marsden. Tickets for the next regular season, with current season ticket-holders' seats protected, go on sale at the same on-line address June 1.

OUTSTANDING: The NCAA named former University of Kentucky gymnast Jenny Hansen, a three-time national all-around champion, as its most outstanding gymnast in the NCAA's 25 years of sponsoring women's sports. She got the honor over nine others, including former Utes Missy Marlowe and Megan McCunniff Marsden.

Megan Marsden, Utah's associate head coach, was surprised to learn she was on the list. She was NCAA all-around champion in 1983 and 1984. Her husband didn't tell her she was nominated, and, "I heard him talk about it, and he said Missy was the one he recommended."

Marlowe won the 1992 all-around, bars, beam and floor titles as well as 1991 beam.

"I don't know how I got in there," Megan Marsden joked. "There must be somebody more impressed than my husband with my accomplishments." She agreed Marlowe should have been the Utes' representative, "her winning the Broderick Cup and all that, she would definitely be the one with the most honors," Megan Marsden said.

Also nominated were Georgia's Kim Arnold and Hope Spivey, Oklahoma's Kelly Garrison-Steves, Alabama's Penney Hauschild and UCLA's Jamie Dantzscher, Kristin Maloney and Kim Hamilton.

HEALING: Most of Utah's nagging injuries have improved with several days of light workouts. The Utes had tough workouts Thursday and Friday and will again on Monday before leaving for nationals Tuesday. Kristina Baskett's sore back was better, Gritt Hofmann's high-ankle sprain improved, Ashley Postell's knee seems solid, and the others (Jessica Duke, hairline fracture in hand bone; Gabi Onodi, shin; Dominique D'Oliveira, elbow) seem no worse, Marsden said.


E-mail: lham@desnews.com

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