The award is supposed to be the most prestigious honor other than the team title. Yet it's the only one that isn't decided in a head-to-head meeting, and gymnasts who compete in the afternoon session have almost no shot of winning.
It is the dilemma that surrounds the all-around award, which will be decided during Thursday's preliminary competitions at the NCAA Gymnastics Championships in Corvallis, Ore.
Utah's Ashley Postell and Nicolle Ford, ranked No. 7 and No. 8, respectively, in the all-around, are both legitimate contenders for the honor. The Utes haven't had an all-around winner since Theresa Kulikowski won in
1999. To end the drought will not only take a great meet by one of Utah's gymnasts, but the judges would have to hold down the scores in Thursday's evening session. The first scenario could play out, but the second? None of the Utes are expecting such cooperation from the judges.
Postell learned that last year when, as a freshman, she had the high score of the afternoon session. Postell didn't even know the format and that she was in the running for the all-around until someone informed her, but, at the same time, she was told not to expect the score to remain the best.
It didn't, and she finished third. UCLA's Tasha Schwikert won the all-around title.
"I thought I was going to drop a little bit more than I did, but third is pretty good," Postell said. "It's kind of unfair that we're in the afternoon once again, but as long as we make the Super Six, that's all that matters."
The top three teams from each session on Thursday advance to the Super Six regardless of scores, and the top four on each event in each session on Thursday advance to the event finals on Saturday.
Hurting the Utes' chances more is that the top-five-ranked gymnasts are all competing in the evening session and such stiff competition usually makes the scores soar even more.
Utah coach Greg Marsden said the only way to make the all-around a head-to-head format would be to add another night of competition. Most coaches already think the three-day format is too much.
"The scores will inflate a little bit," Marsden said of the evening session. "It doesn't affect you in any way other than the all-around, so it does put our all-around gymnasts at a disadvantage, but that is the luck of the draw."
Postell has some of the most difficult routines in the country and she has name recognition, as a third-place finisher last year, and the respect that comes with being a world champion.
Ford has the potential to earn high scores along with Postell, but said she'd actually prefer to make Saturday's individual finals on bars or beam rather than win the all-around, if given the choice.
"Those are the two events I feel like I have a real chance on," she said. "It would be hard to win the all-around out of the afternoon session. It's more like an extra perk."
Both Postell and Ford said the team competition is more important, a change from their club days.
"Before you come to college it's all about yourself," Ford said. "The team aspect is more important, because no one remembers who wins the all-around, they remember who wins the team."
Utah's all-around winners
1999 - Theresa Kulikowski
1992 - Missy Marlowe
1984 - Megan McCunniff-Marsden
1983 - Megan McCuniff
1982 - Sue Stednitz
THURSDAY-SATURDAY, Corvallis, Ore.