Utah freshman ready to step into the spotlight
Next great one?
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Ashley Postell sees the 10 championship banners hanging in Utah's practice facility, vaguely knows about Utah greats Missy Marlowe and Theresa Kulikowski and has listened to tales about the thousands of fans that pack the Huntsman Center to see the Utes perform.

Those little bits, though, are the extent of Postell's knowledge of Utah gymnastics history.

In this case, the ignorance is probably a good thing. The less she knows, the less she has to get nervous about.

As it is, Postell, a seven-year member of the U.S. National Team and 2002 World balance beam champion, is being touted as one of Utah's great gymnasts before she has even performed a routine in competition.

"I'm actually very nervous," she said. "I'm not used to college atmospheres so I'm not sure what it is like. I'm nervous to compete for a team, too, because you want to do well for them."

Unfortunately for Postell, she doesn't have the luxury of making her debut against some fluff opponent in front of yawning fans. Instead, her first college experience will be Friday when Utah competes against top-ranked and two-time defending NCAA champion UCLA, a team she is familiar with.

Postell orally committed to the Bruins, but didn't meet certain NCAA clearinghouse requirements in time to sign with UCLA, which believed it couldn't hold a scholarship for her.

UCLA's urge to move forward was a gift for the Utes, who weren't in the same rush, particularly when it involved someone of Postell's talent.

"I didn't know anything about Utah until I came here," said Postell, who was put in

touch with Utah coach Greg Marsden through the help of a friend. "I thought I'd go to UCLA because it's California and that is where all the Olympic people go, but it's a good thing it happened the way it did because I really like it here."

With her strong balance beam work and high level of difficulty on all events, Postell has the potential to be one of Utah's greatest gymnasts. Keep in mind those are some high expectations, considering Utah's program has produced 22 individual event national champions and has earned an NCAA-record 244 All-America honors.

For Postell, the greatest challenge probably will be adjusting to weekly competitions as opposed to training for several months for just one meet.

"She certainly has the potential to be great," Marsden said. "But what people forget is that even Missy's first years were unremarkable. She was burned out and it took her a couple of years to capture that fire. We don't know if this could be a similar situation. Speaking from a purely selfish standpoint, we're probably lucky she didn't make the Olympic team."

Oh yes, there was that bit of drama.

As a member of the world championship team, Postell was seemingly a lock for the 2004 Olympics, but as always in gymnastics, a couple of slips sent her dreams crashing.

First, she got sick before the 2003 World Championships and had to withdraw. Then came shoulder and ankle injuries. At the 2003 U.S. Championships, Postell missed her bar dismount, finishing 13th, one spot out of making the cut for the Olympic trials.

Devastated, Postell took some time off, only to be called by U.S. officials just days before the trials to see if she wanted to replace an injured gymnast in the lineup.

"Since I hadn't trained I didn't feel capable of doing everything I could do, I didn't want to embarrass myself so I didn't do it," Postell said. "It's not terrible. I have done a lot of other things like the World Championships, so it's not like it was a complete disappointment."

Postell, who home-schooled herself since she was a high school sophomore, turned her attention to competing in college with the encouragement of her mother, who had several conversations with Marsden regarding her daughter's future.

"We didn't know if she wanted to compete for another four years," Marsden said. "But we're starting to see that fire coming back. The great thing about her is she has such a repertoire of skills, we can pick and choose which ones she wants to do and make her routines really fun for her."

lwodraska@sltrib.com

The Postell file

Ute freshman gymnast Ashley Postell is one of the program's top recruits ever.

Lived in Maryland and Virginia

Home-schooled since she was a high school

sophomore

Her mother, Linda, was a diver

Seven-year member of U.S. national team

2002 World balance beam champion

2003 U.S. floor exercise champion

#5 Utah vs. #1 UCLA

At the Huntsman Center

Friday, 7 p.m., www.UtahUtes.com (live)