Gymnastics: Perfect 10 provides balanced attack

Perfection: Postell becomes the ninth Ute to earn a 10.0 on beam
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For the first time in her gymnastics career, Ashley Postell performed a great balance beam routine, saw the score go up, and didn't know how to react.

The crowd of 10,505 at the Huntsman Center and her teammates sure did, with the Utah fans erupting when they saw a 10.0 flash, the first perfect score of the season for the Utes. It also was the first for Postell.

Postell was the highlight of several highlights for the top-ranked Utes, who beat Washington 197.85-195.175 Friday.

"I was a little surprised," Postell said of her 10. "I've never gotten one of those, ever, you don't get those at the club level."

Utah's score was its best of the season, as the gymnasts responded to a challenge from coach Greg Marsden.

"I wanted us to nail that first event, take over the meet and build on that," he said. "I wanted us to do big gymnastics with style, and that is exactly what happened tonight."

Postell's routine was a perfect example of that. Teammates Nicolle Ford and Annabeth Eberle set her up, scoring 9.95 and 9.875, respectively. So when Postell, the 2002 World balance beam champion nailed her routine, the judges "had nowhere to go but up," Marsden said.

Postell is just the ninth gymnast in Utah history to earn a perfect mark on the balance beam, joining the prestigious list that includes Missy Marlowe, Theresa Kulikowski and Kristen Kenoyer.

"At the beginning tonight, warm-ups weren't going that great for me," Postell said. "Once the meet started, it wasn't so bad."

No, it wasn't, it was great, actually.

Postell's excellence wasn't limited to the balance beam, she won the all-around with a 39.775, the fifth-highest all-around score in Utah history. She tied her career best on vault (9.9), set a career high on the uneven bars (9.95) and finished with a 9.925 on the floor, her best score on the event since a 9.95 in the season opener against UCLA.

Postell has had trouble sticking her dismount on the bars, and there was some discussion of changing it, but after Friday's solid landing, it's probably in for good.

On the season, Postell hasn't missed any of the 37 routines she has performed, a team best. It's a remarkable streak for anyone, but particularly for a freshman just off the elite circuit. Accustomed to training months at a time for one meet, normally they are the ones who struggle the most with the weekly schedule.

"There have been some others, Traci Sommer, Kristen Kenoyer, come to mind, who have come in and been consistent their freshman year," Marsden said. "But to the extent she is doing it, hitting 37 of 37, she is setting the bar pretty high."

Postell's 9.9 on the vault was one of several career bests on the event, where the Utes scored a 49.525, the high mark of the season. Gabi Onodi scored a career high 9.8 and Nicolle Ford (9.925) and Jessica Duke (9.9) tied their career highs.

Washington, which hadn't scored above 195 in its last three meets, took itself out of the meet on the first event, where it had to count a fall on the uneven bars and scored just 48.675.

"Against some other teams, like Utah State, we've experienced some lows," Eberle said. "We wanted to keep up our energy tonight and stay focused on our goals. This whole week we've wanted to be more focused."

Utah was, perfectly so.

Utah 197.85

Washington 195.175

l Ashley Postell becomes the ninth Utah gymnast in history to earn a 10.0 on the balance beam

l Utah has a season best on the vault, a 49.525

l The Utes are 14-0 against Washington in Salt Lake City