Red Rocks blast Aggies with record performance

The U gymnastics team strolled into the Huntsman center Friday night needing a strong performance against Utah State to secure their place among the top national contenders this season. By the end of the night, the word strong was an entirely insufficient description of their performance. Astonishing was a much more suitable word.

Not only did the Utes turn in the second best score in school history (198.05), but senior Melissa Vituj also turned in the third best all-around score in school history (39.875). The result was a resounding victory and an elated Vituj.

“Tonight felt sensational, I don’t know of a much better word than that,” Vituj said.

Her performance was sensational enough that on four different occasions, a judge awarded her a 10.0. Since the final score is the average of two judge scores, Vituj had to settle for one perfect 10 and two 9.975s.

Her 10 came on the balance beam and it was well deserved. After seeing two of her teammates slightly falter, Vituj knew she had to put up big numbers to preserve a high team score. She nailed every aspect of her new routine and got the highest possible score, much to the delight of the Huntsman Center crowd, which erupted when the score was displayed.

“It was great to be home,” Vituj said.

“I love competing at home because the crowd really gets me going.”

The crowd was probably a factor on her bars routine, which she normally struggles with, because she received a 9.975 after sticking her highly difficult triple twisting fly away dismount.

As soon as she hit the planted both feet firmly to the ground, the crowd went nuts and Vituj’s smile could be seen from the rafters.

However, that same brilliant smile has not been there through the entire season. Earlier this year Vituj struggled, falling in one event in four of the first six meets, but the last two meets have prompted most people to say that Vituj is back.

“Well, Mel never left,” Vituj said. “I had a few speedbumps earlier in the season, but I think we’ve ironed out those wrinkles.”

Another Ute who seems to have ironed out her wrinkles is Vituj’s fellow senior Veronique Leclerc. She competed in three events on Friday, and earned her first career 10.0 on the floor exercise.

“Veronique looked as good as I’ve ever seen her look for us,” Marsden said.

Although she did have a few minor stumbles, her routines were precise throughout the night, a fact she attributes to her lighthearted approach.

“I was having a blast, especially on floor,” Leclerc said. “I love doing this routine. I didn’t really expect a 10.0, but I was happy to see it.”

Marsden was happy to see it as well, and wished he could have seen more from Veronique, but for a fault of his own.

“I really have to give Veronique a lot of credit,” Marsden said.

“If I would have been wise enough to put her in the all-around, she would have had one heck of a score.”

The Aggies of Utah State didn’t fair quite as well as the Utes, but they did have some inspired performances from freshman Alex Martin. In the middle of her balance beam routine, Vituj’s 10.0 was raised and the crowd released a deafening roar. The fact that she was able to focus and stay on the beam during that commotion was one of the most impressive feats of the night, despite the fact that she received a 9.850 for her routine.

“[The Huntsman Center] can be an ominous place to compete in,” Utah State head coach Ray Corn said.

“Our girls had never competed on the floor of the Huntsman before. They have been in the stands watching the Utes, but never on the floor.”

The crowd of 10,257 really seemed to effect the Aggies on their first event, the bars, but they rebounded nicely and managed their third best score of the year (195.475).

It was all Utes Friday night though. Five different gymnasts set single event career highs, including freshman Stephanie Lim, who set two.

It was a meet for the Red Rocks to remember and for the other gymnastics powerhouses to take note of.

“I think it was good for this team to make a statement to others in the country that we haven’t gone away, we’re going to be a team to contend with,” Marsden said.

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