Utah gymnastics: Strange things happen in Michigan

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Ann Arbor, Mich., seems like a typical friendly college town with several coffee shops, indie music stores and narrow streets that weave together the downtown area and the campus of the University of Michigan.

It can be a fun college scene to visit, unless you're Utah's gymnastics team. For the third-ranked Utes, the Wolverines' home represents one of their worst arenas in which to perform.

Weird things happen to the Utes in Ann Arbor: gymnasts who normally are steady wobble, uncharacteristic falls take down some of the most consistent athletes, and good Ute teams succumb to losses.

It's as if there is some sort of voodoo that seeps out of the otherwise quaint town to confound the Utes.

Utah leads the series with Michigan 18-10, but is just 1-5 in Ann Arbor, with the only win coming in 2006, a slim 196.400-196.100 decision.

"I'd heard all the hype and all the troubles we've had there; I don't know why it's hard to compete there," junior Kristina Baskett said. "But at least we won that meet."

The Utes hope they can give a similar review later tonight, after they face the fourth-ranked Wolverines. Tonight's meet represents their most difficult test in Ann Arbor - Michigan (18-0) and Oklahoma (17-0) are the only undefeated teams in the country.

Utah's hopes of a perfect season ended a week ago in Gainesville at the hands of Florida, 197.700-196.875.

Cleaning up the small mistakes that hurt the Utes in that meet is the top priority tonight, right ahead of getting a win over one of their biggest rivals.

Michigan and the Utes have been similar the last two seasons.

Both struggled last year, the Utes with consistency and the Wolverines with injuries, but both have been stronger this season, in part because of the experiences in 2007.

And just like Florida, the Wolverines are a team the Utes expect will be competing on the final night of the NCAA Championships.

"We'd love to win, it would be very meaningful for us and a big confidence builder," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "But really we want to have a good meet, and hopefully, that will be good enough for us to get a win."

To get a win, the Utes know they have to get a better start than they did at Florida, where several small breaks put them behind after the first rotation. The Gators kept them there.

"It's a lot like last week, it's their senior night, so they are going to have that advantage," junior Nina Kim said. "The main thing for us is to make some improvements, and I think we've made some this week."


When: Today, 4 p.m.

Records: Utah 10-1, Michigan 18-0

What to look for: Nina Kim and Annie DiLuzio have stood out in practice this week, coach Greg Marsden said. . . . Ashley Postell is working a new dismount on the uneven bars. . . . Utah and Michigan are both 3-0 against common opponents (Georgia, Nebraska, Minnesota). . . . The Wolverines' season high was a 197.600-196.950 win over top-ranked Georgia.