Utah Utes gymnastics: Postell, 2 other seniors face final home meet

Published: Friday, March 28 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

Ashley Postell doesn't expect to get emotional tonight when she performs for the last time in front of fans who have hung on her every move for four years as she proved to be one of the top performers in Ute gymnastics history.

"It's the last home meet I'll ever have, but I'm not a very emotional person, like most people would be," said the woman who has won more all-around titles (27) than anyone in Utah's rich history and who needs just five more event wins — possible tonight — to beat Theresa Kulikowski's career record of 112 and match Kulikowski's single-season mark of 40 event victories.

"I guess everyone wants to be good their last home meet, but I'm not putting any pressure on myself," said Postell, of Burke, Va., in anticipation of 11-1, second-ranked Utah's final regular-season meet against 6-9-1, No. 28 BYU.

"It will be sad, but I don't think I'm going to sit there and bawl my eyes out. There's no point in that. That's just not me. I'm not the type of person that gets like that," said Postell.

Nearby, coach Greg Marsden and others adopted a wait-and-see smile about Postell's comments.

Marsden knows he will feel the pangs of losing a senior class of three that also includes two of the most remarkably selfless people in the program's 33 years — Katie Kivisto of Boca Raton, Fla., and Jessica Duke of Sandy.

"I always get very emotional," Marsden said. "I never think I'm going to, and then I always do. I'm not going to bawl like a baby, but I'm choked up and have a little tear welling up. You go through a lot with every athlete, and it's an emotional time."

With this senior trio, "We've got two great role players and one star," Marsden said.

Postell is the nation's No. 1-ranked all-arounder, vaulter and beam-walker and is ranked fourth and ninth in the other events. Her story is well-chronicled from her accomplishments to the way she planned to go to UCLA, but the Bruins eventually steered her to Utah.

"I'm glad I'm on this team," Postell said. "I don't think I could have fit in anywhere else but here."

Duke and Kivisto don't compete much, but Marsden characterizes Duke as "everyone's friend," a much-welcomed trait in a largely individual sport, and Kivisto as an important team leader. And they both are always ready when called upon. Tonight Duke should do bars and Kivisto floor.

Perhaps the best example of what's so unusual about these two is that they're OK with not competing much because it means that those who can score higher are healthy.

Last year, when Duke was going all-around, she said it was a sign something was wrong with her team. "That's really not where I should be because there's so much more talent," said the product of the Waterford School and Olympus Gymnastics.

She could have gone elsewhere and been a star but wanted to challenge herself on a team where she wasn't sure she belonged until she competed a few times and "was getting the same scores as everyone else," she recalled. "I knew I would struggle here, and I knew that I would have to work really hard, but I knew that if I did accomplish the things that I have that I would be really proud of it, and I wouldn't be just a slide-by."

Her final season, she said, "I've felt the best that I've ever been, but I've competed the least — but I'm happy about that because I feel good about myself, and I know that the team is in a lot of ways better than me."

Duke finishes school this summer, "And I have no idea what I'm going to do, which is scary," she said, "but I think I know how to work hard, and I think I'll get through somehow."

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