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CORVALLIS, Ore. - They couldn't count a fall, the best gymnasts had to deliver huge scores and hit routines weren't good enough, they had to be on the verge of great.
Those requirements are just what it took to reach the Super Six. To win a gymnastics national championship will take even more.
Utah fought off a shaky start Thursday to finish third in the afternoon session and will compete tonight for the national title at .
The afternoon session was won by Nebraska (196.325), followed by Alabama (196.25) and Utah (196.175). The teams that didn't advance were Michigan (196.0), LSU (195.65) and Oklahoma (195.525).
The evening session was won by Georgia with a 197.275, followed by Iowa State (196.25) and Florida (196.225). Failing to qualify were Arizona State (195.575), Oregon State (195.15) and Arkansas (194.375).
For the second year in a row, Ashley Postell had the high all-around score of the afternoon session, scoring a 39.525. The score held until the final routine of the night, when Georgia's Courtney Kupets scored a 9.9 on the floor, giving her a 39.575 to win the all-around. Postell finished second, improving her spot from a year ago by one. She scored 9.9s on the vault and floor, a 9.875 on the bars and a 9.85 on the beam.
"Two years she has come in and put together two great routines," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "I didn't see her routines, but I know Courtney Kupets is a beautiful performer and I'm sure she deserved to win.
In a blind draw after the evening rotation, the Utes were picked to open tonight's rotation on the bars. Georgia will have a bye and then
Despite hitting 24-of-24 for only the second time this year, the Utes were nearly eliminated as they sat in fifth place after two events. Utah finished with the best scores of the afternoon session on bars and vault to overtake Michigan and move into the Super Six.
Coaches talked about the parity in gymnastics this season in the press conferences, and it was there on the final score sheet Thursday. Utah averaged a 9.8, but still barely qualified.
"We were nervous, but the good news is there isn't anything that isn't fixable," junior Nicolle Ford said.
Utah finished third last year, but to duplicate or improve on that feat will take a better meet than the one the Utes delivered Thursday. Utah had some wobbles on the beam and Gritt Hofmann and Kristina Baskett both stepped out on the floor, costing the Utes an automatic two-tenths.
Meanwhile, other teams such as Michigan and LSU started out strong, leaving the Utes two spots out of qualifying for tonight.
"Every score we were getting seemed like a 9.7," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "We didn't have any major mistakes, but I knew it wasn't going to be good enough to get us to finals."
Utah rallied on its last two events, coming alive on the vault with a 49.3. Postell had a team-high 9.9 and Hofmann and Ford scored 9.875s. Hofmann's effort was her second-highest score of the year.
"That was one of our best vault sets all year," Marsden said.
The Utes still needed teams to help out by making some mistakes of their own. So solid to start, other teams finally started to cooperate in the fifth rotation while the Utes were on a bye. LSU had a fall on the bars, Alabama had a fall on the beam and Michigan had trouble sticking its vault landings.
After five rotations, Alabama and Michigan finished their competitions, with 196.25 and 196.0, respectively.
With Oklahoma and LSU falling behind, the Utes needed to score higher than a 48.95 on the uneven bars to knock out Michigan.
"We knew it was going to be close," Hofmann said. "We were nervous, but our confidence was higher after vault."
Dominique D'Oliveira, who fell on the bars at regionals, opened with a 9.725, a score that was matched from Jessica Duke. They continued to soar from there, with Nina Kim earning a 9.775, Kristina Baskett a 9.9, Postell a 9.875 and Ford a 9.85.
"As bad as it could have been, we keep pulling through," Postell said. "I guess we like to make it interesting."
Utah's finish was much different than the beginning.
The Utes scored a 48.8 on the beam, their fifth-lowest score of the year on the event. Only Oklahoma, with a 48.75 on the vault, had a lower score out of the first events.
Postell led the Utes with a 9.85 while the second-highest score was a 9.8 from Gabi Onodi who was the second up.
Ford, who consistently delivers big scores, had a wobble on her first tumbling pass and scored just 9.75.
The Utes needed to make up ground on the floor, but they scored just a 48.95 as small breaks again cost them.
TONIGHT, 8 p.m.
IN SHORT - Utah advances to the Super Six for the 12th time and competes tonight for the national
KEY STAT - Utah needed to score higher than a 48.95 on the bars to advance; the Utes scored a
KEY MOMENT - Utah's last three competitors on bars scored 9.85 or better to move Utah into the Super Six.