Gymnastics Notes: No. 16 SUU stealing Utah thunder with new ranking

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Well, the Utah gymnastics team's reign at No. 1 didn't last long. In the rankings released Monday, UCLA took over the top spot with a 196.5 average, while the Utes are at No. 2 with a 196.433 average.

However, the biggest surprise, at least in Utah, is the appearance of Southern Utah University at No. 16.

The Thunderbirds upset Denver 195.525-195.150 a week ago, and entered the rankings with a 194.050 average.

Their ranking is the highest since they were No. 13 in 1995.

"We know it doesn't mean anything right now," SUU coach Scott Bauman said. "But it is a great boost to our girls' confidence, and anything we can do to get up their confidence is a great thing. You can see it in their faces."

SUU had to count four falls in its opener at BYU, but counted none, and only had a few major breaks, in its win over Denver.

The T-birds compete at Centenary in Shreveport, La., on Friday, and Bauman is using the road meet to add more difficulty. Centenary hasn't scored above a 189, so even with a few falls, the Thunderbirds should get a win.

Leah Sakhitab and Sheena Shaw have provided some big scores, and senior Carly Geronimo is the highest ranked T-bird, averaging 9.8875 on the floor to be ranked 12th.

"She might be one of the best leapers in the country," Bauman said. "She executes so well, and her tumbling is very clean. You can't help but be amazed by her."

BYU moved up to No. 8 after its 195.025-193.925 win over New Hampshire Saturday. Utah State, ranked No. 24 last week, dropped out.

As for the Utes, news that they had lost the top ranking was met with about as much emotion as they showed when they got the No. 1 spot - very little.

"[UCLA] has been putting up some big scores, so it isn't a surprise," senior Annabeth Eberle said. "It just gives us something to work for."

Individual rankings

Utah freshman Ashley Postell is ranked second in the all-around, tied for fourth on the floor and tied for third on the balance beam.

Utah's Rachel Tidd is ranked No. 1 on the uneven bars.

Quote of the week

Georgia's gymnastics program was penalized a scholarship after coach Suzanne Yoculan traveled with six gymnasts, whose eligibility was up, to New York on a private jet for a weekend. The trip included two nights at the posh Plaza Hotel, a Broadway play, dinners and shopping.

Asked about the extravagance of the trip, Yoculan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that "lavish is in the eyes of the beholder." Around the nation: UCLA won a quad meet with a score of 197.15, with Tasha Schwikert earning a 10.0 on the floor. Stanford, which pulled out of its first meet because of a number of injuries, lost to Washington 192.825-192.425. . . . Alabama defeated LSU 197.175-197.05, and was led by 2004 Olympian Ashley Miles, who earned a 10.0 on the vault. However, LSU coach D-D Breaux didn't agree with the outcome, saying afterward "We won this meet. It was a great competition. We stuck our landings. We threw our difficulty. I think the judges were severe on us."