Even though Utah lost its second meet of the year on Friday and the Utes were angry over the judging, sophomore Nicolle Ford couldn't help but smile when asked about her own performance.
Ford scored a 39.425, her third-highest mark of the season. She scored a 39.475 in the season opener and a 39.55 in the second meet of the year against Utah State.
Against Georgia, she scored 9.825s on the vault and uneven bars, a 9.85 on the floor and a 9.925 on the balance beam.
"It was definitely one of my better meets," Ford said. "In my mind, I've only had one other really good meet, and that was Utah State."
For Ford, her biggest hangup this year has been the vault. It is the only event she has missed a routine on. Her second-lowest score of the year also came on the vault, a 9.55 against Nebraska.
"Vault gets me intimidated," Ford admitted. "It gets in my head. I don't worry about any of my other events."
Vaults like Friday's, one in which she took just a small step on the landing, are helping her build her confidence, as is some constant coaxing from the coaches.
"I keep challenging her on the vault," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "It's her weakest, and we keep telling her to make it her best event. If she does that, it's going to be hard to stop her; she is so clean and executes everything else so well."
Tide is still out
With Georgia back on the schedule, the only major power the Utes don't meet on a regular basis is Alabama. The Tide's coach, Sarah Patterson, contacted Marsden when she heard the Utes were meeting Georgia regularly again, but Marsden said he doesn't foresee adding Alabama in the future, unless he drops Georgia or Florida, which he doesn't plan to do.
Marsden said he has some loyalty to the Gators because he is good friends with their coach, Rhonda Faehn, whom he coached on the national team.
"As long as those teams can fit us in, we'll meet with them," he said.
The last time Utah competed against Alabama in a dual-meet situation was in 1990.
In the rankings
Utah moved up a spot to No. 3 in the latest rankings despite the loss to Georgia. BYU is 14th and Southern Utah is No. 18. Utah State, ranked No. 25 last week, dropped out. Nebraska took over as the top team, replacing LSU, which slipped to second. Florida, Utah's opponent Friday along with Stanford and Cal, is sixth.
As a team, Utah is No. 2 on the uneven bars (49.153), third on the balance beam (49.1) and sixth on the floor (49.215). BYU and Utah are tied for sixth on the vault (49.155).
Individually, Utah's Ashley Postell is ranked third in the all-around and Annabeth Eberle is seventh and Nicolle Ford is eighth. BYU's Jaime Mabray is 13th.
Utah's Rachel Tidd is third on the uneven bars. Postell is seventh on the balance beam and Ford is ninth.
Struggles are over
With an 0-4 start, it appeared the Utah State Aggies were in for another down season, but now, finally healthy, the Aggies are making a push.
Jessica Parenti, who was diagnosed with mononucleosis earlier in the year, won her first shot at the all-around in Friday's 195.45-194.2 win over Boise State with a 39.15.
Around the nation
Oregon State has won seven meets in a row, including Friday's 195.925 win over Cal (190.925) and Seattle Pacific (190.3). . . . Friday's win over Utah may have been the turning point for Georgia, which had just a day off before competing at UCLA, where it posted a 196.5 to beat UCLA (196.1) and Arizona (193.625). . . . Stanford topped Arizona State 195.3-191.575.