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Utah Utes gymnastics: Utah gymnasts had a 'great season'

Published: Friday, May 2 2008 12:10 a.m. MDT

The 2008 Ute gymnastics season was so harmonious and gratifying that starting the year off in January by beating No. 1-ranked Georgia — the three-time defending NCAA champion that would its fourth straight title last week — hardly stands out.

"That was fun, but I wouldn't say that that was any more or less of a highlight than a lot of other meets throughout the year," said Utah coach Greg Marsden, who completed his 33rd year with Utah's third straight second-place finish and Ashley Postell and Kristina Baskett taking second and third in the all-around at the NCAA championships last weekend. (Baskett's left-ankle injury in last Saturday's NCAA event finals seems to be bone bruises from jamming the foot into the floor mat, and they should heal.)

"It was a great season. I couldn't ask more from my team this year," said Marsden. "It was one of the most enjoyable, rewarding seasons that I've had in a while. It was just a great group of kids that worked hard and never gave up and never let me down — or themselves."

Asked the high points for 2008 were, he simply couldn't pick out any. "The year was a highlight. They were just so pleasant and so fun and so consistent. Every meet was fun. Even the loss," said Marsden.

Utah was 12-1 in the regular season, 10-0 until going to No. 3-ranked Florida and absorbing a 197.70-196.875 loss. "None of us felt bad after the loss. We went on the road in a tough situation and had a good meet," Marsden said.

The Utes won the North Central Regional, moved up from third after two rotations to second place in the NCAA team preliminaries and then came from a tie for fourth after the first rotation in the Super Six championships to a second-place finish behind Georgia in the closest NCAA finals since 2002, 197.45-197.125.

Ashley Postell concluded her career with her third straight second-place finish in the NCAA all-around with Baskett tying for third. For the third straight year, Postell was the best individual gymnast in the Super Six team championships — when it counts most — scoring 39.75. That's 9.95s on vault, bars and floor and 9.90 on beam.

She is the only 20-time All-American in NCAA women's gymnastics history. That's every event every year.

Postell owns or shares all five of Utah's major gymnastics records with 30 career all-around titles, 11 all-around wins in a single season (2008, tied with Suzanne Metz, 1995), 47 single-season event wins (2008), 120 career event wins and the 20 All-America certificates.

Postell has toyed with the idea of trying to make the 2008 U.S. Olympic team but recently decided against it — and Marsden thinks that's going to stick. "Ashley is at peace with things. I think she's finally able to let that demon go," he said. "I think she's matured enough that she realizes it doesn't define her. I think she's ready to begin to focus on what comes next, and I think that's healthy."

He has taken some calls from entities that may afford her the chance to perform and tour and make a little money doing it, though Marsden hopes she will focus most on finishing her degree.

Replacing Postell — and fellow seniors Katie Kivisto and Jessica Duke, who meant a lot in terms of leadership and friendship and always being ready to step in — is daunting.

"You don't replace Ashley," Marsden said. "I can see a variety of people who can improve and make greater contributions next year in different events, and that's what it's going to take.

"Kris is a great example. Each year she has improved and become more confident and been more of a presence, and that's reflected by her third-place finish in the all-around and the fact she was in three event finals. That's an example of how people can develop into that leadership-on-the-floor role."

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