Breaking: Utes' best gymnast could be out for year

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The University of Utah's third-ranked gymnastics team will go into its biggest meet of the year without its best competitor.

Utah, which hosts undefeated and top-ranked Georgia next Monday, will be without junior Nicolle Ford, who dislocated and possibly broke the index finger on her right hand in Sunday's practice.

Ford, the nation's seventh-ranked all-arounder, had the finger examined Monday morning but is definitely out for the Georgia meet. If it's broken, she will be out for at least four weeks, and possibly the rest of the season. She is also ranked fifth on the bars and sixth on the beam.

"It's tough, you don't want to go into any meet, but especially this meet, without your top competitors available to you," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "If it's fracture, it's going to be close to get her back before nationals."

Ford was going from the high to the low bar, called a shoot over, when she caught her finger and injured it. It was the same move in which senior Natalie Nicoloff slipped on Thursday and tore a tendon and ligament in her elbow. Nicoloff, who has only competed twice this year, is out for the season.

Ford has yet to miss a routine this year, going 28-for-28, and is one of Utah's best competitors under pressure, earning big scores several times after teammates have fallen before her in the lineup.

She is a four-time All-American and team co-captain.

Georgia, which beat the Utes a year ago in Athens 197.275-197.15, hasn't competed at Utah in a regular season meet since 1991. Marsden and Georgia coach Suzanne Yoculan ended the series after several spats between the two, only reviving it last year.

Utah defeated Georgia 194.65-193.25 in the 1991 meet.