College Gymnastics: Rookie success

Freshman Postell's beam win propels Utes past Michigan
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As she watched Annabeth Eberle fall off the balance beam Friday, Utah freshman Ashley Postell thought back to the 2002 World Championships when the competitor in front of her fell.

"She was supposed to be the best on the beam, and all I could think was 'Oh my God,' '' Postell said. "There was so much pressure."

Postell not only hit, but won the event.

So there she was Friday in a similar situation. You can call her a rookie, but don't ever call her a choker.

Postell had a couple minor breaks, but hit her routine for a 9.825, propelling second-ranked Utah past No. 3 Michigan 196.875-196.525 in front of 10,909 fans.

"If she misses, they win," said Utah coach Greg Marsden of the pressure on Postell.

For the second meet in a row, Postell won the all-around, but it was that beam routine that drew the biggest raves, coming after the usually steady Eberle fell, leaving Michigan with a chance at becoming the first team to beat Utah on its floor since 2003, the last time Michigan was in town.

But Postell came through, even if she looked cooler than she felt.

"I'm always nervous," Postell said. "But I think if I weren't ever nervous, it would be bad. I need that adrenaline."

Even with Postell's score, the Utes managed only a 48.775 on the beam, a season low. Meanwhile, Michigan was having its best showing of the year on floor, with all six competitors hitting for the first time.

Michigan scored a 49.225 on the event. The score that got tossed was a 9.55 by 2000 Olympian Elise Ray, who as the last competitor in the event stepped out of bounds on one of her tumbling passes.

"There was a lot of pressure on beam, and I felt like we pushed too much," Marsden said. "We did a lot on beam, with some nice stuff, but we also did one or two goofy things too. That is why I think they were thinking too much."

Utah extended its lead on the floor, finishing strong as Postell scored a 9.9 and Eberle and Gritt Hofmann scoring 9.925s.

"That was a fun experience," Hofmann said. "We all had to perform as best as we could to win."

As close as the meet was, Marsden was pleased with the overall performance, considering the quality of opponent the Utes went against.

"Both teams battled all the way through the meet, and that is what it's going to be like at regionals and nationals," he said. "We looked determined on everything. We had a few mistakes, but we avoided a lot of major ones."

Ray, competing in the all-around for the first time this year, finished sixth because of her low floor score. Her teammate Jenny Deiley was second to Postell in the all-around, finishing with a 39.325.

"It wasn't our best performance, we had a lot of close calls, but we got it done," Postell said. "I put some pressure on myself on beam, but I just concentrated and focused on making it through."

Utah 196.875, Michigan 196.525

At Salt Lake City

All-Around: 1. Ashley Postell (Utah) 39.375, 2. Jenny Deiley (Michigan) 39.325, 3. Lindsey Bruck (Michigan) 39.300, 4. (tie) Nicolle Ford (Utah) and Rachel Tidd (Utah) 39.275.

Vault: 1. (tie) Gritt Hofmann (Utah), Nicolle Ford (Utah) and Annabeth Eberle (Utah) 9.875, 4. Jenny Deiley (Michigan) 9.85.

Bars: 1. (tie) Rachel Tidd (Utah) and Elise Ray (Michigan) 9.95, 3. (tie) Annabeth Eberle (Utah) and Nicolle Ford (Utah) 9.925.

Beam: 1. Elise Ray (Michigan) 9.90, 2. Becca Clauson (Michigan) 9.85, 3. Ashley Postell (Utah) 9.25, 4. (tie) Shanna Duggan (Michigan) and Lindsey Bruck (Michigan) 9.80.

Floor: 1. (tie) Gritt Hofmann (Utah) and Annabeth Eberle (Utah) 9.925, 3. Ashley Postell (Utah) 9.90, 4. Becca Clauson (Michigan) 9.875.

Gymnastics Storylines

IN SHORT: The second-ranked Utes improved to 2-0 against teams in the top five, defeating the Wolverines even though Michigan's score was its highest of the year.

KEY MOMENT: Needing a big score on the balance beam, Ashley Postell delivered with a 9.825 to keep the Utes ahead.

KEY STAT: In her first all-around competition, Rachel Tidd finished tied for fourth with a 39.275. Her score included a 9.825 on the floor, the first time she has completed a floor routine in practice or in competition this year.