After Session Win, U Drops to Fourth in Super Six Finale

U gymnastics coach Greg Marsden said his team would have to be “on” to have a hairbreadth of a shot at the NCAA Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The Red Rocks responded by not having to count a fall and posting their best-ever score at a national championships, but the team’s fourth-place finish showed how talented rich the Super Six was.

Host Alabama rode the hometown crowd to a 197.575 score and the 2002 NCAA Championship. The Crimson Tide kept their streak of national championship success at home. The school has won all four championships it has hosted.

Alabama was followed by Georgia (197.250), the defending NCAA champion UCLA (197.150), Utah (196.950), Nebraska (196.425) and Stanford (196.025).

Utah began the Friday night festivities with six unscathed floor routines. Senior Lindsay Tanner led off with a 9.750 to finish her collegiate career without a fall (hitting 54-of-54 routines).

Freshman Annabeth Eberle followed with a 9.775 before Deidra Graham and Shannon Bowles each scored 9.800. Theresa Kulikowski’s 9.850 and Melissa Vituj’s 9.900 concluded the strict-judged event with a team score of 49.125.

Still, the Utes were sitting in third place heading into the vault.

Utah turned in another good effort when pushing off the pummel horse, surviving all six routines without a fall. Graham hit for a 9.800 in the leadoff position.

Two gymnasts later, sophomore Veronique Leclerc scored a team-high 9.900 in the event. Eberle countered Leclerc’s feat with a 9.825 and Kulio scored a 9.850, but once again, the Utes were getting precious docks for hops on landings.

Utah’s event total of 49.175 pushed its score to 98.300.

After the gymnasts’ first bye round, the Utes moved to bars, where they escaped a potential setback.

The freshman Eberle displayed composure in the first position, scoring a 9.825. However, junior Kim Allan, a beam All-American her freshman year, fell onto the low uneven bar. Her performance resulted in a 9.225.

But Allan’s teammates not only kept pace over the next four routines?so the team would not have to count a fall?they raised the bar.

Bowles and Leclerc garnered scores of 9.900 each, and Kulio capped off the event with a Ute individual meet best of 9.950.

Utah clinged to a 147.600 score after three events.

The U then advanced to its bread and butter event, the balance beam, before its second and final bye round. The Utes justified their No. 1 regular season team beam ranking, earning a team score of 49.350 (a quarter of a point behind Alabama and Georgia for the best team round).

After three consecutive 9.800 scores by Eberle, LeClerc and Graham, Vituj tip toed to a 9.850. The Bowles/Kulio duo proved why they qualified for the Saturday individual event finals, each scoring 9.950s to conclude the championships.

Kulio and Bowles finished the night with all-around scores that mirrored those of their Thursday qualifying round. Kulio scored a 39.600 and Bowles a 39.450.

In her first NCAA Championships, Eberle earned a 39.225, edging senior veteran Graham’s 39.125.

Kulio, Bowles and Vituj competed in the individual event finals Saturday, but none of the specialists brought home a first. Kulio, the beam champion in 1999 and 2001, suffered a slight shake to score a 9.900 for third place, behind Michigan winner and former Olympian Elise Ray. Kulio added a fifth placing on bars and 11th on floor.

Bowles also brought home a third-place finish, hers on floor. She added a fifth place with a 9.825 on beam.

Vituj placed 14th on the floor. By qualifying, all were recognized as First Team All Americans.

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