Rarely is Nicolle Ford unhappy about doing well. Count Thursday's vault performance as one of those times.
Happy to deliver a 9.875 for the team, her score was good enough to qualify her for event finals Saturday. In the vault finals, gymnasts have to perform two different vaults. Ford's first problem is she doesn't have a second vault; her second problem is she hates the event, even to the point where she does as little of a warmup as possible.
Shortly after Thursday's session ended, she was warning she might pull out of the finals.
"I don't like it, I've always been afraid of it," she said. "Megan [Marsden] told me I had to do it, but we'll see. Greg [Marsden] can't make me run down the vault runway."
The top four gymnasts from each session advance to Saturday's finals.
Ashley Postell qualified on all four events, Gritt Hofmann qualified on vault and Ford and Kristina Baskett qualified on the bars.
Ford said she wishes she could swap her place in the vault finals for a spot on the beam. She had a big break on her first tumbling pass on the beam and scored just 9.75 to finish in a tie for 23rd.
"We'll have to see what happens," she said. "I had a vault I was doing my freshman year, I don't know if I can still do it or not. But I don't know if I want to go out and embarrass myself."
Pain is good
Gabi Onodi's 9.8 on the beam was the second-highest score among her teammates. She attributed her good performance to a rib she dislocated in warm-ups.
"I was just thinking of the pain the whole time," she said. "I had to do it, but it kept my mind off routine. It hurts, but I will make it through."
The gray brigade
Longtime Utah fan Scott Monson, who has attended every national championship since 1989, has designed T-shirts for fellow fans ever since the 1993 championship. This year, he distributed 244 gray T-shirts, making Utah's large following the most noticeable in the afternoon session. An estimated 300 Utah fans made the journey to the NCAAs.
Utah had the most fans in the afternoon session, but the most creative were two of LSU's fans, who wore leopard print bedsheets toga style.
No fault of the judges
The new judging code in effect this year led to some inconsistencies in the regular season, but none of the coaches in the afternoon session found anything to complain about Thursday.
"They were consistent across the board," Nebraska coach Dan Kendig said. "They did a great job today of keeping the scores about the same as when we started."
Alabama coach Sarah Patterson got a little nervous when her first competitor on the balance beam, Brittany Magee, fell, but the Tide responded much like they did in 1996 when their first gymnast on the beam fell and the next five hit. Alabama won the national title that night.
"Coming through under pressure, needing five hit beam routines to qualify, that can only build our confidence," she said.
Michigan didn't have a fall but won't compete tonight. It was a disappointing way to end, but Michigan coach Bev Plocki said she could live with an effort that simply wasn't good enough.
"We had the poor luck if being in this session," she said. "I could go through and nitpick and say if we had only done this or this, but it was a good effort."