AUBURN, Ala. Utah's Ashley Postell (39.55) and Annabeth Eberle (39.50) finished first and second in the early session all-around and made first-team All-American status.
But, as usually happens, evening scores started higher and climbed, and that left Postell tied for third place in the final all-around and Eberle tied for seventh place.
Winning the all-around was UCLA freshman Tasha Schwikert with 39.725, followed by senior teammate Kristen Maloney with 39.625.Postell tied Alabama's Ashley Miles, while Georgia's Kelsey Ericksen and Katie Heenan tied for fifth at 39.525 with Eberle knotted with Alabama's Terin Humphrey at 39.50.
MOVING ON: Eberle and Postell had the early session's top two scores on vault (9.95, 9.925), Rachel Tidd had the best score of the session (9.925) on bars and Postell had the second-best score of the session (9.90) on beam to qualify for Saturday night's event finals.
Thursday's scores will not count in the finals, when everyone gets a new slate.
The top four plus ties from each of Thursday's sessions make it to event finals.
Also advancing for the chance to win individual championships are Postell on bars (fourth-place tie, 9.875) and Eberle and Hofmann, who finished Thursday's early session in a (third-place tie with 9.90s on floor with Postell just missing at 9.875.
Making All-American first-team status (top four each session) were Postell and Eberle in all-around and vault, Tidd and Postell on bars, Postell on beam and Eberle and Hofmann on floor. Making second-team All-American are Tidd in all-around and vault, Nicolle Ford on bars, Eberle on beam and Postell on floor.Through a post-meet draw, Postell will be first up on her specialty, balance beam, in Saturday's event finals. That will make it tough for the 2002 world beam champion to win an NCAA title as scores are typically lower for the first few competitors to give judges somewhere to go.
BEAM ME UP: Ford was at a loss over her fall on beam, her first fall since Jan. 21 in any event and just the second of the year for her.
"It kind of stunned me actually," she said. "I have not had problems this whole trip, this whole week. It was just a fluke.
"It was one of those things where you get down and you're just like, 'Whoa, what happened? Did I just fall off?"'She was crying as she finished the rest of the routine, but after the meet, Ford was laughing at her error and seemed determined to make up for it tonight.
BYU BESTS: Best scores of the evening for BYU were a 9.85 floor from senior Jaime Mabray that tied for 14th in the session and Mabray's 9.825 s on vault and beam that tied for 10th and 13th in the session. Mabray fell on bars and finished 21st in the session's all-around at 38.50. Senior Marie-Helene Claveau was 18th in the all-around session with 38.80.
CHALLENGE: At last week's final hard practice of the season, Marsden announced to the team that Katie Kivisto would be competing on beam and Gabi Onodi and Jessica Duke on floor as substitutes for the injured Tidd (sore back) and Hofmann (strained calf muscle).
"To put it bluntly, I lit a fire with Rachel and Gritt. They were both frustrated with me," Marsden said Thursday after Tidd and Hofmann performed despite their injuries. "I did want to send a message that if they wanted to do this, they had to show me."
They did, Tidd with her anger at him and Hofmann more quietly but still persuasively.
Thursday Tidd scored 9.80 on beam and 9.775 on floor, with Hofmann tying for third in the session on floor at 9.90.Now, they both need to do the same or better tonight as the Utes go after the real prize, the NCAA championship, which they haven't won since 1995.
NO FUN: At past nationals, the Utes have spent time with their parents and friends after competing on Thursdays, but not this year. That stuff is off-limits as Utah tries to win a title for the first time in 10 years. The Utes were reportedly trying to pass notes to family and friends instead.