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SALT LAKE CITY - The Utah gymnastics team was ahead of pace to crack 197.00 for the first time of the season through three events, before settling for a 196.225-193.800 win over Michigan. But, although the Utes didn't get the breakthrough meet they've been looking for, at least it appears as though they didn't come away with any breaks.
Senior All-American Nicolle Ford injured her ankle on her first floor pass, silencing the crowd of 9,313 who braved a daylong snow storm to attend the meet. The all-around leader through three events crumpled to the mat for several minutes while team medical personnel attended to her. Fortunately for the Utes, the preliminary diagnosis indicated that she did not break any bones, although she will have X-rays to confirm the opinion on Monday.
Ford's injury and subsequent 0.00 score perhaps impacted the next competitor - Kristina Baskett who fell on the last element of her routine - a pike double back. Ford's misfortune certainly impacted Utah's score, although Ashley Postell's 9.90 routine as the final performer brought a small measure of respectability to the event.
Ford's injury and the team's fade on floor took some glitter of what had been shaping up as an outstanding meet for the Utes. They recorded season highs on both vault (49.425) and beam (49.250). It marked the first time Utah had scored a 49.00 all season on the beam, and not only did all six starters hit their routines cleanly for the first time, so did two exhibition performers.
Utah is still waiting for all three all-arounders to go without a fall in a meet - a goal that will be on hold until at least until Ford's status is determined. Locked in a three-way battle through three events, only Postell came away unscathed from the floor exercise, allowing her to win the all-around handily with a 39.50.
Utah swept every individual title, as it has in every meet except last week's debacle at Georgia, with Postell capturing vault (9.90) and floor (9.90), Baskett winning bars (9.90) and Ford taking beam (9.925).
Turning in her best outing as a Ute was freshman Sarah Shire, who three days earlier was so sick she checked into the hospital. Despite continuing effects from the illness, the dynamo scored a 9.875 on vault and a 9.90 on beam - both career bests.
Making her first appearance to count was another freshman, Stephanie Neff. Neff, who replaced injured freshman Annie DiLuzio (Achilles) in the floor lineup, scored a 9.775. Although she scored only a 9.675 after stepping out of bounds, Daria Bijak also made a big impression with her tumbling. Her step out came after a double front, punch front on her first pass.
Freshmen could see more playing time next week in Ford's absence. DiLuzio is questionable for Sunday's meet at Nebraska.