ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The University of Utah's gymnastics team is in the NCAA Championships, but are the Utes in the running for the NCAA Championships? Not if the same team that took the floor Saturday at the NCAA Regionals shows up in Corvallis, Ore., in two weeks.
Utah scored a 195.7 to finish second to host Michigan (196.0) in the Northeast Regional and advance to the NCAA Championships April 20-22.
The score was the Utes' third-lowest of the season after they had to count a fall on beam and had various problems on all the other events too. If Utah wanted to
send a statement to its opponents going into nationals, the Utes sent the wrong one.
"What it says is we're a good team at this point, not a great one," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "We're not a team hitting on all cylinders, the question is can we get better between now and the next meet. If we don't, we won't make finals."
Other teams that qualified for the NCAA Championships from the six regionals were Georgia (197.425) and Nebraska (196.35) out of the Southeast, Oklahoma (196.375) and LSU (195.8) out of the Central and Arizona State (196.675) and Iowa State (195.725) out of the North Central.
The shocker was in the South Central where Florida won with a 196.375 and host school Arkansas was second with a 195.4. UCLA, winners of four of the past six titles, failed to advance finishing third with a 195.175.
Alabama (first at 196.475) and Oregon State (second at 195.800) qualified out of the West regional at Stanford. BYU finished last in the North Central (192.125) and failed to qualify.
Luckily for the Utes, despite the mistakes, they were never in danger of finishing any lower than second Saturday because the other teams had their miscues as well.
Auburn finished third with a 193.05, followed by New Hampshire (192.5), Pittsburgh (190.9) and Rutgers (188.975).
"This wasn't the kind of meet we wanted to have," said junior Nicolle Ford, who won the all-around with a 39.4. "They're definitely down that we took second and we have some things to fix. But at least it shows they do care and it's just a matter of getting the nerves out. I know I wanted to throw up before beam."
Utah finished on beam and thought Auburn was closer than the Tigers really were going into the final rotation. The pressure increased when Gabi Onodi (9.3) and Kristina Baskett (9.25) both fell.
Nina Kim and Gritt Hofmann finally stayed on the beam and scored 9.85s each. Ford followed with a 9.9 and Ashley Postell had a 9.825.
"I almost had a heart attack," Hofmann said. "I just went for it. All I could think was 'I want to go to nationals,' and I was going to do what I could do to help us get there."
The Wolverines had two mistakes on floor, and scored 48.9, but combined with Utah's errors it was enough to give Michigan the win.
Marsden thought Utah was hurt by starting on floor, one of its strongest events, because the scores seemed to rise as the night went on.
Aside from the falls on beam, Hofmann stepped out on floor and scored 9.7, Kristen Riffanacht was given a 9.8 start value on floor because of a missing element and scored just 9.5, Ashley Postell fell on the vault and scored 9.375 and Dominque D'Oliveira fell on the bars and scored 8.95.
"They're frustrated," Marsden said. "Obviously they're not happy, but the important thing is we got out of this round and we get into the next. We've had a lackluster meet before, and have come back with an exceptional one, so we have to realize that is a possibility."
IN SHORT - Utah struggled to its third-lowest score of the season, but still qualified for the NCAA Championships.
KEY MOMENT - Nicolle Ford earned a 9.9 on the balance beam to clinch the all-around title.
KEY STAT - For only the third time this year, the Utes failed to score 49.0 or higher on at least two events.