It's kind of getting to be like the old days for Utah gymnastics, like the early '90s when Missy Marlowe, Shelly Schaerrer, Kristen Kenoyer and Aimee Trapanier were ganging up against the NCAA world. Crowds were close to Huntsman Center capacity, and NCAA championships were in hand.
Friday night in the Huntsman Center, Marlowe was in attendance to commentate for KJZZ-TV, the crowd was 14,100, best in three years and eighth-best in school history, and the Utes saw a fourth athlete Rachel Tidd, sore back and all win a meet all-around title this season.
Tidd scored 39.375, while teammates Nicolle Ford (39.325), Annabeth Eberle (39.30), Ashley Postell (39.275 with a big beam wobble) were all within striking distance as Utah put up its third-best score of the season in defeating BYU a big reason for the big crowd 196.65-194.35.
BYU used top all-arounder Marie-Helene Claveau on three events, leaving her out of bars with a sore shoulder. Senior Jaime Mabray scored 38.60 all-around.
KJZZ-Ch. 14 will air the meet tonight at 5 p.m. Both teams have scored far higher, but this is the year of tighter scoring, as requested by the coaches, so, "The meet was pretty easily scored," said BYU coach Brad Cattermole. "We got about what we deserved. We didn't count a fall, we just gave away tenths with a lot of goofy little things." Some of that may have been due, he said, to the NCAA rousting his team out of bed at 5 a.m. Thursday for drug testing.
For the Utes, coach Greg Marsden said he thinks his team now realizes what it has to do to be back on top come April, like those Ute teams of the '90s, and it's a competitive group (see the part about having four different all-around champions already in this season) that wants to do what's necessary.
"We're at a very good place," said Marsden, whose team has ranked No. 1 in four of the five national polls released so far. "They know as well as I do what it's going to take," he said, citing routine upgrades, lessening of little deductions and stuck landings. "We've accomplished things, and we're aware of what is to be done. People seem to be determined to get there."
The Utes have done well in close meets, when their competitiveness boils, and they've kept focus in meets that aren't worrisome. "We've overcome obstacles and injuries and meets with people falling, and we've done a good job," said senior Eberle, adding the Utes won't let anyone take anything from them.
"We have higher expectations now, especially on landings," Eberle said.
And Friday was easy to be ready, even if the Cougars were two points behind at the end.
"But it's BYU," said Tidd, who wasn't supposed to go all-around because of a back that has had spasms and soreness since before Christmas. Marsden planned on resting her on floor exercise, but she talked him out of it. "I knew I could do it," she said, though he's thinking about having her feeling strong for the postseason with rest now.
"I like to show my routines off to big crowds," said Tidd, who had the right audience to witness her first all-around win of the year. She had the meet's best individual event score, too, 9.95 on bars, where she has ranked No. 1 much of the season.
Freshman Katie Kivisto didn't expect to go all-around except in exhibition, but Kristen Riffanacht aggravated a hamstring injury during a fall from beam, so Kivisto found out in the 30-second touch warmup directly in front of the event that she would lead off instead of going exhibition after the last person up (Gritt Hofmann, 9.875 with an upgraded full-in on her first pass). Kivisto called it "significantly different," and she had to be summoned from the locker room to suddenly warm up.
Nevertheless, Kivisto performed a routine that was revamped on her three tumbling passes just during the week's practices. She had asked Marsden if a 2 1/2 with a punch front at the beginning of her routine would score better than the triple twist she'd been using but wasn't completing. The punch front adds .1 of difficulty. She also changed her second and third tumbling passes, and even if her hurry-up score was just 9.725, it was her best of three floor scores so far. Kivisto also scored 9.90 as leadoff on bars."She's beginning to get it," Marsden said, noting Kivisto is willing to upgrade and try sticking landings.