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Utah Gymnasts Place Second At NCAA Championships

Utah Gymnasts Place Second At NCAA Championships

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ATHENS, Ga. - The University of Utah gymnastics team gave the hometown team a scare, but settled for second behind Georgia for the third straight year at the 2008 NCAA Championships. Utah, which started the meet under some of the most difficult situations imaginable, scored a 197.125 - just over three tenths of a point out of the gold. The 0.325 differential was the smallest at the national championships since 2002.

Stanford placed third at 196.750, followed by Florida (196.70), LSU (196.35) and Alabama (196.125).

Although Georgia led from the outset, the Utes hung around until the very end. Utah finished with the second-best bar score of the night, but it wasn't quite enough to catch the Gym Dogs on the beam.

Ashley Postell concluded one of the most remarkable careers in NCAA history by winning the all-around (39.75), vault (9.95), bars (9.95) and floor (9.95). She placed second on beam with a 9.90. The all-around win - her 11th this year - gave Postell the final piece in a sweep of school win records.

She also set a new NCAA record for All-America awards, winning the maximum 20 in her four years to break the old mark of 18.

Postell had a great supporting cast in what must be regarded as one of the deepest, most talented teams in school history. One of those was Kristina Baskett, who tied for third in the all-around last night, placed fourth tonight with a 39.45.

The 2008 Utes went the entire season without counting a fall in what is believed to be the first time in school - and perhaps NCAA - history. Making it even more amazing was that Utah used a different lineup in every meet this season.

"In the entire season, we never counted a fall," said head coach Greg Marsden after his team accepted its third straight runner-up trophy. "That's an amazing accomplishment. We were 12-1 in the regular season - losing only to a very strong Florida team on the road - won our regional and were in it until the very end tonight. We started in a very difficult situation - on beam while Georgia was on the floor - and looked a little anxious to start. But we relaxed even as the event was going on and just got stronger and stronger. I'd rather finish first than second, but I'd rather be second than third, and down the line."

Marsden was right about Utah starting the meet under incredibly difficult circumstances. The sold out crowd in Stegeman Coliseum clapped, screamed, barked, screeched and stomped for Georgia's every move on the floor exercise. Meanwhile, up on the always dangerous balance beam, the Utes were blasted in every direction by eardrum-aching noise. Even during breaks between Georgia routines, there was no break from the din, as canned music blared at rock-concert decibels while the Utes walked the beam.

Despite the worst-case scenario for a turn on the beam - and some extremely tight scoring - all six Utes completed their routines without any big problems. Their 49.10 score tied them for second place after one rotation with Alabama, which scored a 49.10 on the vault. Florida was right behind with a 49.05 on the bars. Georgia's floor score was a 49.475.

Postell, the 2002 World balance beam champion and 2007 NCAA beam champion, finished the set with a stunning performance. Her 9.90 score reflected the struggles Utah had in picking up a big score on the apparatus. Right before her, Baskett and Kim also performed rock-steady routines and received a 9.825 and a 9.85 for their efforts. Starting the night off was Jamie Deetscreek, who along with No. 2 beamer Annie DiLuzio, scored a 9.725. From the No. 3 spot Bijak's well executed acrobatics landed her a 9.80.

Utah would spend the next 20 minutes on a bye. Stanford (49.225 on bars) and LSU (49.125 on floor) made their first appearance. Posting two event scores before heading into a bye were Georgia (98.700) and Florida (97.900).

For the second straight night, Utah got a scare on the floor exercise. This time it wasn't the first competitor who fell, however. Beth Rizzo scored a 9.80 in the leadoff spot after replacing Katie Kivisto - victim of a fall on floor during preliminaries on Thursday. Tonight it was normally big-scoring Bijak who hit the mat and put the heat on her teammates who followed. They soaked it up. Kyndal Robarts showed no signs of freshman nerves as the next competitor, scoring a 9.825, and DiLuzio hit for a 9.85. Baskett scored a 9.875 and left it up to "Money" Postell. Postell, the last person of any team competing for the second straight event, had every eye in the arena on her. And what a routine the fans saw. Postell, who scored a 9.95, seemed to drop from the sky, landing her numerous difficult tumbling passes on the dot.

The Utes finished with a respectable 49.275 on the floor, pushing their two-event total to 98.375. Other than Georgia, far ahead with a 98.70, everyone else was within mere tenths of each other at the midway point. In second was Stanford (98.40), Utah was third (98.375), and the others were LSU (98.35), Alabama (98.175) and Florida (97.90).

Next up was Utah's best event - the vault. Although the scoring seemed tight on one of Utah's best vault sets of the year, the Utes finished with a 49.40, which tied for the best score of the night on the apparatus. Postell led the way with a 9.95. Vault boosted Utah to a 147.775 three-event score. The other teams with three event scores were Georgia (148.075), Florida (147.30) and Alabama (146.60). One rotation later, Stanford would move to a 147.625 and LSU a 147.550.

Utah went to its last bye while Georgia (197.450) and Florida (196.70) finished their competition.

Jessica Duke hit the last routine of her Ute career to start Utah's bar set, scoring a 9.80. Kim followed with a 9.80. Gael Mackie had a great routine going before stepping on her landing and scoring a 9.70. The Big Three of Bijak (9.90), Baskett (9.90) and Postell (9.95) made sure no one would catch them from behind and Utah secured a silver medal.

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