Red Rocks return home to face Oregon State

The No. 4 U gymnastics team returns home tonight to face No. 14 Oregon State in the Smith’s Challenge Cup at 7 p.m. In the Huntsman Center.

The Utes are coming off the third-best performance in team history, a 197.950 in Seattle, Wash., which was good enough for first place in a four-team field.

The Utes’ big score a week ago was also the best road score in team history, and it was aided greatly by the return of junior All American Annabeth Eberle. She scored a 39.725 in the all-around, including a perfect 10.0 on the vault.

“It was great to get Annabeth back in the lineup,” coach Grerg Marsden said. “With both she and Melissa (Vituj) hitting on all cylinders, we’re a much better team.”

Vituj was right on Eberle’s heels, scoring a 39.700 in the all-around, which was composed of four 9.925s. Vituj has been on fire in recent weeks, and hopes to maintain her hot streak for the last two home meets of her career.

The two co-captains weren’t the only two Utes to perform well last weekend. Sophomore Kristen Riffanacht continued her outstanding season with three scores that averaged 9.90 and Gritt Hofmann returned from injury to score a 9.925 in her only event.

“Kristen Riffanacht has really stepped it up in the last few weeks and is performing the best gymnastics of her career here at Utah. Getting Gritt back on floor is also a big help,” Marsden said.

These individuals were the standout performers last Friday, but the team didn’t count a fall for the second week in a row. It was, after all, a total team effort.

“I think we all felt that it was important to have a good meet at Washington because we had struggled a little bit on the road since our opener against UCLA,” U coach Greg Marsden said. “With that accomplished, we come home to finish the season against two very strong teams that will both challenge us to be at our best. That’s important as we prepare for the postseason.”

OSU also performed exceptionally well last week, turning in a 197.625, which was the best score in school history, and the best score at the six-team meet the Beavers were hosting. “Oregon State is a very good team,” Marsden said. “Between them and BYU, we don’t have a single letdown for the rest of the year.”

A letdown would have been nice for the Red Rocks, who, like every other team in the country, are nursing some minor injuries. Utah will most likely be without the services of freshman standout Nicolle Ford for the second week in a row, as she has been sidelined by a bad back. Ford did train this week, but her status remains in question and will be reassessed right before the meet.

The other half of the Ute freshman all-around team, Rachel Tidd, might also be sidelined by her sore shins. Last week, she competed in only two events, but was exceptional in both, scoring a 9.925 and a 9.950.

Luckily for the Utes, they can rest people without losing any ground because of their impressive depth in all events.

“It’s been great to have the luxury to rest people. I think it says something about our depth and the contribution that every single gymnast is making to our team effort.”

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