Utah Gymnastics Notes: Chalk absence up to the bars

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LINCOLN, Neb. - As she flung off the uneven bars for a third time, Utah junior Dominque D'Oliveira wondered if she had suddenly forgotten how to do gymnastics.

One minute she was on the bars, performing a routine giant swing during warmups, the next she was hurtling through the air.

"I changed my grips and I still fell, I didn't know what was going on," she said.

Utah coach Greg Marsden thought he did, believing D'Oliveira simply wasn't ready to compete that day.

"After the third time I just told her to take her grips off," he said. "She was so spooked, if she kept doing it, I thought she was just going to get hurt."

It wasn't until after several other Utah gymnasts, followed by some of Nebraska's, also peeled off that the coaches wondered what was wrong. Nebraska even changed the bars, but that didn't work.

Finally, it was discovered the chalk at the bars was from the men's gym. The men use a mixture of sugar water to dampen the chalk, which apparently had gotten into the batch, making it slick enough to give the women trouble.

Once it was changed, the gymnasts stayed on, but the meet was over for D'Oliveira even before it started. She was replaced by Kristen Riffanacht, who scored a 9.275.

"I was so relieved to find out it wasn't me that something was wrong with," D'Oliveira said. "But I was so flustered, I was kind of glad I didn't have to compete."

Season bests

Riffanacht rebounded from her bar performance to score a 9.85 on the balance beam. Ashley Postell scored a season best 9.95 on the balance beam, and the freshman won the all-around with a 39.6, her best score in the all-around since earning a 39.625 in the season opener against UCLA.

"I was happy, but it was tough losing the meet," Postell said. "At least we fought through to the end."

Clinching it

Needing a 9.875 to beat Utah, the Cornhuskers wouldn't have wanted anyone but Richelle Simpson to finish the meet. The senior is the 2003 national all-around and floor champion. She was granted a medical hardship year by the NCAA for 2004 after her season was cut short with a knee injury.

"I try not to keep up with the scores, it drives me crazy," Nebraska coach Dan Kendig said. "But she is the one I would want to compete last. She was great at the NCAA Championships the last time she competed, and she was great today."