Utah Utes gymnastics: Best of U. — Marsden calls Postell the 'most gifted'

Published: Wednesday, March 5 2008 12:00 a.m. MST

If Ute senior Ashley Postell can remain healthy into the 2008 postseason in April — in gymnastics that's always a big if — she can enter her final NCAA regional and national competitions as one of the most decorated athletes in Utah's long and impressive history in the sport.

Driven by a need for personal perfection but mellowing just a bit, she already holds the school mark for career all-around wins with 26.

Over the next few meets, Postell (102) will likely surpass Theresa Kulikowski's record of 112 career event/all-around victories, and four other marks by Kulikowski and Suzanne Metz are attainable for her. In the postseason, Postell could reach another two records.

"She's probably the most gifted athlete I've ever had the pleasure of coaching," said Ute coach Greg Marsden, who's guided all the Utah greats.

Though Postell is so close to so many records, she's avoided acknowledging any of it.

"Like the school record?," she said when asked about being on the threshold of beating Kulikowski's 112 career wins. It's been mentioned in newspapers and Ute news releases for weeks, but Postell paid no notice. "Just like the most wins? That's cool. I didn't know, and I don't really think about it, but it's nice to know I could kind of be in history."

Kind of?

"I think if she worried about that, she wouldn't do as well," said junior Nina Kim, who's been friends with Postell since they were 12 and 13, even though at first Kim was intimidated by how good Postell was. "Ashley is talented, and she works hard and she gets what she deserves."

Postell says she never really worked at being a different person this year. "I just want to do good in my senior year and not put any pressure on myself," she said, claiming no personal agenda for her last two months. "Most of my goals are just dealing with the team, and that all of us together can compete good, and we come out with a win at the end of the season. I don't have any personal goals, just because I don't need to worry about that."

That's a different from her freshman year when the six-year member of the U.S. national team, the 2002 world balance beam champion, arrived on campus knowing only about competing for herself. "I was having a hard time getting used to the idea of a team and it not being all about me because that's how elite is," she said.

Bigger changes

Bigger changes have come over the last year.

Postell righted herself for the 2007 NCAA postseason after stressing out much of the '07 regular season, having five falls and not much fun in the gym. It was a hard year for the entire team, divided by cliques, dragged down by injuries. Like Postell, the group got it together for the postseason to finish No. 2 in the NCAA Championships on their home floor while Postell won the beam title and was second all-around.

Though still a private person who often doesn't discuss even her gymnastics problems with the coaches and give them a chance to help her, she has brightened considerably since 2007.

"I think the end of last season into this year, she's learned how to laugh at herself and laugh at her mistakes and know that things will come around," said senior Jessica Duke.

Duke calls Postell a major perfectionist, to which Postell readily admits. But, says Duke, "This year, she'll fall on beam 50 times in warmup, and she's like, 'Just kidding!' She's like, 'Psych!'

"She inspires me," said Duke.

"This year it's a little different," said Kim. "She's kind of shown herself as a leader, and I've never seen that side of her. I think that's pretty amazing how she's come out this year."

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