Utah Gymnastics: Utes fly past UCLA

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

The Utah gymnastics team's post-Christmas workouts were so bad, coach Greg Marsden admitted he was in tears at one point.

It's amazing what a team gathering, some extra-hard workouts and a mock meet can do.

Utah, ranked No. 5 in the preseason poll, upset top-ranked UCLA 197.675-197.3 in front of 10,064 fans in

the Huntsman Center on Friday night.

The Utes were led by senior Annabeth Eberle and freshman Ashley Postell, who tied for all-around honors with 39.625.

Friday's meet marked the second year in a row the Utes have upended the Bruins in the season-opener. In 2003, UCLA beat Utah in the Huntsman Center, ending Utah's record home winning streak of 23 years.

"This is definitely satisfying," Eberle said. "This is sweet right now, but tomorrow we have to start thinking about [next week's opponent] Utah State. We can take the good things from tonight and enjoy them and start preparing for next week."

The Utes have a lot to enjoy, considering their final score was the ninth highest in Utah history thanks to a solid performance with few major breaks. The high score probably means Utah will be ranked No. 1 when the new poll is released on Monday.

"We hadn't even considered what scores we wanted," Marsden said. "What we wanted for them to do was be confident and aggressive, but not necessarily be perfect. It was an ideal first meet. We did well enough to win, but there were some things we can get better on as the season goes."

Everyone knew Eberle, a four-time All-American, was capable of producing a meet like the one she delivered on Friday. The question everyone had was what would Postell do, Utah's highly touted freshman.

The rookie didn't disappoint, opening with a 9.925 on vault, getting a 9.825 on bars with a deduction for going over on her handstand, then finishing with a 9.925 on beam and a 9.95 on floor.

She should also get a 10.0 for a good acting performance. While she performed cool and collected, the 2002 World Balance Beam Champion was as nervous for any meet she has competed in.

"I was so scared, I almost started crying," said Postell, keeping up the emotional theme of the night. "I was actually pretty scared the whole time. It's different because you want to do well for the whole team."

Utah led the Bruins after the first rotation, then lost it on the second, trailing 98.85-98.8. Surprisingly, Utah went ahead on the third rotation, where they competed on the balance beam while the Bruins were on what is usually their top event, the floor.

But 9.925s from Postell and Nicolle Ford, plus a 9.875 from Eberle helped Utah overtake the Bruins, who had several deductions on the floor.

Utah ended the night with four scores of 9.9 or better on the floor.

"We still have room to improve," Eberle said. "Some of us made some little mistakes. I definitely had some jitters on beam and we'll upgrade our routines in the middle of the season. We have a lot to look forward to."

As happy as the Utes were, UCLA coach Valorie Kondos Field shrugged off the loss. After all, this is January, not April.

"Utah always comes in in great shape and we're known as a team that starts off slow," she said. "They always have great form to start, and you know coming in you have to be on your best to beat them."

In Short -- The Utes avoided any major breaks, and didn't have to count a fall.

Key Moment -- Trailing after two rotations, the Utes posted a 49.275 on the balance beam to go ahead of the Bruins, who got a 49.075 on the floor.

Key Stat -- Rachel Tidd scored 9.95 on both the vault and the uneven bars. %%Up Next%%Utah at Utah State, Friday, 7 p.m.