Postell leads Utes with strong all-around meet

Women's College Gymnastics
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CORVALLIS, Ore. - The opening night jitters are gone, and the cold has been vanquished. What the Utes have left is the Ashley Postell who was a mainstay on the U.S. National Team and a World Beam Champion.

Postell, Utah's highly touted freshman, led the top-ranked Utes to a 195.95-194.25 win over No. 13 Oregon State on Friday.

In her first collegiate performance, Postell tied for all-around honors with Utah senior Annabeth Eberle, scoring 39.625 when the Utes upset UCLA.

She didn't match that score Friday, getting a 39.45, but her overall performance was actually a little better, since the Utes were on the road, and the judges have made an effort to keep scores lower in recent weeks.

Postell tied for first with Eberle

on the vault with a 9.85, won the balance beam and floor events with 9.875s and tied for second on the uneven bars with a 9.85.

Not bad for a girl who was so nervous in her first meet she almost cried, and was so sick last week she begged out of everything but vault.

"I felt a lot more relaxed tonight," Postell said. "It's a little hard starting on the bars, I prefer the vault, but those are the types of things you can't control."

Postell didn't look shaky on the bars, her least favorite event, earning a season best after nailing her routine. She got stronger through the meet, ending with a balance beam routine that drew loud applause from the 3,317 in attendance.

Postell's beam routine is one of the most difficult in the country, including all but two moves, a triple dismount and a full twisting back handspring, from the routine that earned her first place on the event in the 2002 World Championships.

"It's hard for me to take anything out because it's my best event," Postell said. "I'd like to keep them all in, but in college it's more about sticking landings, and I don't stick that triple dismount very often."

Postell's performances have eased Utah coach Greg Marsden's biggest fear, that maybe his all-star would come to college and coast after competing on the world's highest level.

"We knew how gifted she was skillwise," he said. "But she has shownt the fire again and is still enthusiastic. She is getting a feel for what it is going to be like competing week in and week out. That is something that is hard to appreciate, until Week 10."

Postell was one of the few who hit all of her routines, as Utah didn't complete any event without some sort of trouble, although the Utes were nowhere near repeating the problems of last week, when they were almost upset by Utah State.

"In practice we talked about if we made a mistake, to forget about it and move on," Eberle said. "We wanted to focus on the positives and build on those."

Utah didn't have to count a fall, unlike the Beavers, who counted low scores on the vault and floor.

Notes: For the second straight week, Utah opened with a fall on the uneven bars. Last week against Utah State, Dominique D'Oliveira fell as the leadoff gymnast. On Friday, Kristen Riffanacht started the Utes with a fall on her first release, scoring a 9.025.

Jacey Draper, who was born in Logan and spent a redshirt year with the Utes before transferring to Oregon State, didn't compete Friday. She did perform in exhibition, earning a 9.65 on the balance beam. Rachel Tidd, who missed the Utah State meet with back problems, scored a 9.825 on the vault and a 9.9 on the uneven bars.