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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Red Rocks stumble in the Super Six

Despite a disappointing show in the Super Six team finals, the U gymnastics team saw three of its gymnasts reach the podium at the NCAA individual event finals on Saturday.

Senior Melissa Vituj, junior Annabeth Eberle and freshman Nicolle Ford were the only three Utes to compete in the event finals, and they represented their team well. Vituj scored a 9.90 on the final floor routine of her career, which was good enough for a third-place tie. Eberle averaged a 9.9188 on two vaults to finish second, and Ford tied for fourth on the uneven bars with an average of 9.8875.

Ford’s feat was particularly impressive, considering she was joined on the podium by four Olympians and Sports Illustrated’s national gymnast of the year. It was a fitting end to a fabulous freshman campaign, which earned her first team All American honors.

“This championship has given me a lot of confidence for next year,” Ford said.

Eberle’s success on vault was anything but guaranteed given the talented field of competitors and the self-proclaimed “terrible warm-up” she had.

“I was tired and my legs were tight,” Eberle said. “But I felt relaxed during the three-minute touch, and felt even better in competition.”

Two-time NCAA champion Ashley Miles of Alabama finished ahead of Eberle for the win. Both women received All-American first-team honors.

Vituj also received first-team All-American honors with her third-place finish on the floor exercise. It was the 11th All American honor of her distinguished career at Utah, which came to an end in Los Angeles on Saturday.

“I am very satisfied with my career,” an emotional Vituj said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more from this program and I don’t want it to ever end, but it has.”

Vituj also received two second team All-American honors, one on the balance beam and another in the all-around.

The fine Ute showing at the event championships came on the heels of one of the most disappointing Super Six finals in team history. The Utes finished sixth out of six teams, behind Florida, Alabama, Stanford, Georgia and champion UCLA.

“It was very disappointing,” Eberle said. “We knew we were really talented going into [nationals], but we just didn’t finish how we wanted to.”

The Red Rocks were basically out of the competition after three routines on their first event, and were never able to regain composure. Their team score on the night, 195.775, was by far their worst of the season, and it came in uncharacteristic fashion.

The Red Rocks’ first event was the uneven bars, an apparatus on which the Utes were ranked No. 4 coming into the NCAAs. But after Dominique D’Oliveira fell to lead things off and Stephanie Lim paused her way to a 9.65, Veronique Leclerc fell on her dismount and scored a 9.275, all but eliminating the Utes from contention.

The 48.325 the Utes amassed as a team was the second-lowest event score for them this season, and not a score a team can overcome in a Super Six final.

“When your expectations are as high as ours were, and after the first three performers you’re out of the meet, it’s hard to get back up,” Marsden said. “No matter how hard the team tries to get back up, deep down, they know it’s over.”

The Utes temporarily rebounded from their uneven bars fiasco on their next event, the balance beam. Gabriella Onodi was the only Ute to fall off the apparatus, and Ford and Vituj each scored 9.90, leading the Utes to a 49.225 beam score.

The good times were short lived, however, as the Utes floundered their way to a season low team floor exercise score of 49.075. Eberle and Vituj, normally perfect on the floor, both had major deductions for stepping out of bounds during two subpar performances.

The Red Rocks were similarly uncharacteristic on the vault Friday. They finished with a team score of 49.075 on an apparatus on which they finished the season ranked No. 2 in the country.

In short, it was not Utah’s day. Instead, it was a stain on an otherwise great season that saw the Utes finish 13-1 in the regular season, including a season opening victory over eventual champion UCLA.

But despite the disappointment in their final meet, Vituj thinks the Utes had a good finish.

“I think sixth in the nation is pretty darn good,” she said.

Eberle was a little less optimistic.

“We were pleased with the season as a whole, but not the result,” she said.

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