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True Gritt — U. vaults past Y. on Senior Night

Published: Monday, March 27 2006 12:52 p.m. MST

Utah senior Gritt Hofmann, shown in this composite image made of six separate photos, performs her beam routine on Senior Night Friday at the Huntsman Center. (Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News) Utah senior Gritt Hofmann, shown in this composite image made of six separate photos, performs her beam routine on Senior Night Friday at the Huntsman Center. (Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News)
It was Gritt Hofmann's second Senior Night.
"I still cried, but I think I was a little more relaxed," the fifth-year Utah gymnast said, adding with a laugh that maybe she can get a phone call next summer telling her she can have a sixth year of NCAA eligibility because she'd be happy to take it.
Hofmann's popular floor exercise routine concluded the best team score of the season in the final home meet for the University of Utah gymnasts Friday night in the Huntsman Center before the largest crowd of the season, 14,407 paid, which won Utah the NCAA attendance title for the 23rd time.
Utah piled up a 197.50 after Hofmann, low on her double back on her last floor pass, scored 9.825, as the Utes downed a disappointing BYU, which came back strong on beam (49.15) to finish at 193.35.
It was Utah's first meet of the season in which it hit all 24 routines.
"We're all peaking," said Ute sophomore Ashley Postell, who won Friday's all-around title with 39.625 to Nicolle Ford's 39.55 and Nina Kim's 39.50.
Postell "has just been on a roll" with eight straight scores of 9.90 or better her last two meets," said Ute coach Greg Marsden, who before the meet "was worried about getting a lineup on the floor."
Ford was diagnosed with strep earlier in the week, Hofmann has been ill, and Postell, who studies with Ford, was getting sick during the meet. Both were worsening as the night went on, and Marsden wouldn't let Ford do one of her planned tumbling passes. Still, both came through like a flu-ridden Michael Jordan against the Jazz.
The Cougars, who held the sixth spot for the North Central Regional in two weeks, must now await scores at this afternoon's WAC championships in Logan to find out if they will actually qualify for the postseason.
Utah's Friday score means it can now count its previous high of 197.20 in its Regional Qualifying Score, which should raise it a bit and could allow the Utes to retain their No. 2 ranking, though Florida or Iowa State could still pass them depending upon today's SEC and Big 10 meets and their scoring.
Utah will be a top seed at one of the country's six NCAA regionals April 7 or 8 and will find out which one on Monday, along with their finally ranking.
In all, it was a fine night for the Utes in what could have been a disastrous circumstance with the illnesses and with it being Senior Night for five team members, four of whom competed. Natalie Nicoloff is out for the season with an elbow injury.
Hofmann, the Berliner and veteran at being a senior, wrote a message to fans on her left upper arm — "danke."
"They gave me more energy, which I needed," Hofmann said. She had a 9.825 vault, 9.90 beam and the 9.825 floor.
"I promised myself I would try not to cry," said co-captain Kristen Riffanacht, "and I lost it right off the bat." But not on the mat. She tied her season-high scores on both beam and floor, both 9.825s.
Gabi Onodi tied her career high on beam with 9.875, and Dom D'Oliveira had problems (9.675) on bars but came out of it all smiles.
Freshman Kim had career-best scores on beam (9.90) and floor (9.925 with an added double back).
And the beam team hit a season-high of 49.50 with Riffanacht, Onodi and Kim starting it off with season- or career-bests.
Despite the emotions and the illnesses, Utah managed to upgrade in a couple places (Kim, Kristina Baskett), Riffanacht did a new floor pass, and Kim and Postell each did Yurchenko 1 than some other vaults but it does have the potential to pull higher scores because it's more unusual. Marsden is aware of only one other gymnast in the country doing it, Georgia's Tiffany Tolnay. Utah was also able to keep in most of the four upgrades it did last week at Florida.


E-mail: lham@desnews.com

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