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U. gymnasts get rare bite from injury bug

Published: Friday, Sept. 4 2015 4:58 a.m. MDT

Through four-plus months of preseason training and even the first few meets, Utah's gymnastics team, ranked No. 1 again this week, had few injury issues.
Annabeth Eberle's ankle that was surgically repaired last spring gets cranky once in awhile, but she's gone all-around every meet. Kristen Riffanacht missed one meet with a sore hamstring. Rachel Tidd developed back spasms in mid-December and is training cautiously, but went all-around in the last meet and is expected to do so again tonight when the 4-0 Utes visit No. 25 Minnesota (3-5) at 6 MST.
But on Monday, the Utes lost two athletes for at least tonight's meet. Beam specialist Natalie Nicoloff suffered a second-degree sprain (partial ligament tear) in an elbow working on bars and is out for a couple of weeks, and Gabriela Onodi's right ankle swelled significantly halfway through Monday's practice. It was sore following last Friday's 196.875-196.525 win over Michigan that moved both teams up a spot in the rankings to 1-2.
An x-ray this week showed no breaks but revealed an osteophyte (bump on a bone) that is common to gymnasts and is apparently the cause of the swelling. Onodi left practice Monday on crutches and is out for this meet, said coach Greg Marsden.
He wasn't certain who will replace the two on each event, but Riffanacht is likely in some spots, should her hamstring allow it. Katie Kivisto, Dominique D'Oliveira or Jessica Duke could see more action and Stephanie Lim could compete for the first time this season.
Tidd came through her first all-around of the season last Friday with no soreness and trained all week with no apparent problem. Her health is key to Utah's success, and her 39.275 was accomplished even though the 9.825 floor routine she did was the first time she had done that routine from start to finish in six weeks. She had only trained it in parts since mid-December.
While Minnesota has not been as strong as usual and is 0-2 at home, "They always get up for us," said Marsden. Minnesota coach Jim Stephenson was a Ute assistant for several years, and there's been a friendly rivalry between the schools for the past 13 years since he and wife Meg took the Gopher job.
Utah leads the series 22-1, 7-0 at Minneapolis.


E-mail: lham@desnews.com

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