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AUBURN, Ala. - No one bothered celebrating when the afternoon's all-around results were released, with Ashley Postell and Annabeth Eberle at the top of the preliminary standings.
Because scores tend to soar with the evening competitions, the all-around winner has never come from the afternoon session since the NCAA started using the current format in 1993.
That held true again Thursday, as UCLA's Tasha Schwikert won the all-around out of the evening session with a 39.725. Her teammate, Kristen Maloney, was second with a 39.625.
Postell finished in a tie with Alabama's Ashley Miles as both posted 39.575.
Eberle, who scored a 39.5, finished in a tie for seventh with Alabama's Terin Humphrey.
Postell and Eberle earned first-team All-American honors for their efforts and Rachel Tidd, who finished tied for 12th with Michigan's Elise Ray scoring a 39.4, earned second-team honors.
"Ashley only had one small step on a dismount, and for her to do as well as she did says a lot about her," Utah coach Greg Marsden said.
No one was more surprised than Nicolle Ford when she fell off the balance beam. Ford had suffered just one other fall this year, on the vault against Oregon State on Jan. 21.
"I stood there and said, 'Did I just fall?' " she said. "It stunned me."
Ford didn't let the mistake bother her too much, scoring a 9.85 on the floor and a 9.8 on the vault.
Up to a challenge
Marsden calculatingly announced last week that Katie Kivisto would compete on the balance beam instead of Tidd and that Jessica Duke and Gabi Onodi would compete on the floor instead of Tidd and Gritt Hofmann because of injuries.
"I wanted to light a fire under them, they had to show me they wanted to do this," Marsden said of Tidd and Hofmann.
The two did, with Tidd earning the afternoon session high on the uneven bars of 9.925, and Hofmann earning a 9.9 on the floor with one of her best performances.
"I got a little upset with him," Tidd admitted. "It made me want it more than ever."
Southern Utah's Leah Sakhitab competed in the all-around as an individual, finishing with a 38.3. Sakhitab's best was a 9.775 on the beam. She scored a 9.7 on the floor, a 9.6 on the vault, then fell on the uneven bars, scoring a 9.225.
Awards piling up
Utah's strong performance earned the Utes several spots in Saturday's event finals by finishing in the top four on the events out of their session. Postell made the finals on the vault, uneven bars and balance beam. Eberle made it on the vault and floor, Hofmann qualified on the floor and Tidd qualified on the bars.
The event finalists are also the first-team All-Americans. Second team All-Americans are those finishing fifth through eighth.
Tidd was a second-team All-American in the all-around and vault, Nicolle Ford was second-team on the uneven bars, Eberle was second-team on the beam and Postell was second-team on the floor.
BYU failed to qualify any gymnasts for the individual events.
Luck of the draw
Utah starts out with a bye, then starts on floor tonight, which means the Utes end on the balance beam. Nebraska starts on the vault, Alabama opens on a bye then bars, Georgia opens on the beam and UCLA starts on the floor.
The draws mean UCLA will end on the beam while Alabama will be on the floor, backed by its loud crowd. The Tide will be on the vault while Utah is finishing on the beam.
Of the schools in the afternoon session, Utah is the farthest from home, but the Utes had the most fans in the stands. More than 200 made the trip to Auburn.
The official attendance was 8,500 for both sessions combined, but that was for tickets sold, with a lot of empty seats counted in Thursday's preliminary rounds.