Utes feel fine, get back on track

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Feeling drained and a little off as she still fought the effects of the flu, Utah gymnast Nicolle Ford thought about watering down her routines Friday for Utah's quad meet against Stanford, Cal and Florida.

Ultimately, she decided not to. Wise decision.

Ford tied her personal best in the all-around to lead the Utes to a 197.425, as they downed Florida (196.45), Stanford (196.025) and California (191.5) in front of 11,008 fans at the Huntsman Center.

Ford scored 9.9s on the vault, uneven bars and balance beam, and a 9.925 on the floor.

"I guess we're going to have to make sure she is sick before nationals," Utah coach Greg Marsden joked.

Ford started to feel sick Monday night and didn't practice again until Thursday, when the Utes hold only a light practice.

"I didn't feel so good before warmups, but once I got out there, the adrenaline kept me going," Ford said. "I don't feel so good now though."

Of all the routines, Ford was happiest with her vault, a season best on the event that is her nemesis.

"I wish I could tell you her problems are resolved, but it's at least a good step for her," Marsden said. "She is a good vaulter, it's just that event simply frightens her, that is all there is to it."

Ford's score on vault set the tone for the Utes, as they rolled to a 49.375 team score on the event, establishing a lead that the other teams never threatened.

Florida came into the meet with wins over Nebraska, Georgia and Alabama, but its last two performers on floor had trouble Friday, preventing them from notching another win over a national power.

"Typically floor and vaults are our strongest events," Florida coach Rhonda Faehn said. "We were obviously disappointed in floor, it wasn't one of our typical performances and that put us at a big disadvantage."

Even at their best, the Gators probably wouldn't have beaten the Utes on Friday, who snapped a two-meet losing streak. In the program's 30 years, no Utah team has lost three in a row.

"We didn't worry about that," senior Annabeth Eberle said. "We didn't go into the Nebraska and Georgia meets doubting we'd win, and we didn't do that tonight. We came in wanting to do our best."

Utah's trouble in its last two losses has been on the uneven bars, and it gave the Utes some problems again Friday.

Leadoff gymnast Katie Kivisto flubbed her mount and scored just 8.75, her first miss of the year. Freshman Jessica Duke, in the lineup for only the second time this year, came back with a 9.75, and Utah went on to score a 49.275.

"It made me a little bit nervous," Duke said of Kivisto's fall. "But I was planning on hitting anyway, I wanted it bad."

Duke replaced Dominque D'Oliveira, who fell at Georgia, and Marsden said he plans to stick with that lineup for the rest of the season.

"I'm not worried about Katie, she has been solid, but I think we've found our answer in that second spot," he said. "Jessica did a great job tonight."


IN SHORT - Utah scored its second-highest score of the year to snap a two-meet losing streak.

KEY MOMENT - After Katie Kivisto fell on the uneven bars, Jessica Duke, in only her second performance of the season on the event, scored a 9.75 to get the Utes back on track.

KEY STAT - Utah had its second-best performances on the vault (49.375) and floor (49.525), propelling it to the win.