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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Top three tussle

The U gymnastics team is finally getting healthy, and couldn’t come at a better time.

The No. 2 Utes (3-0) welcome No. 3 Michigan (5-0) for an early season showdown Friday night in the Huntsman Center. The Wolverines have had the Utes’ number the last several years, a fact that the Utes are not ignoring.

“They’ve beaten us for three years in a row,” Ute coach Greg Marsden said. “It was our only regular-season loss last year and we want to win (this year).”

For the first time this season, the Utes could have all pistons firing. Sophomore Rachel Tidd, limited in duty while nursing a back injury, could be back in the all-around for Friday’s meet.

“It helps a lot (to have Tidd back),” senior Annabeth Eberle said. “We know that we can count on her. We’re just happy that she’s back in there.”

If Tidd indeed returns to the all-around, which will be a meet-time decision, the Utes will have four gymnasts capable of winning the all-around on any given night.

“Each team (that I’ve been on) has been talented, but when we all channel the energy together, it’s a really strong team,” Eberle said. “This is a very talented team.”

Tidd, Eberle, freshman Ashley Postell, and sophomore Nicolle Ford make up perhaps the most elite foursome in recent U gymnastics history.

“This is the most talent and the most depth we’ve had in a number of years,” Marsden said. “If we stay healthy and if everyone continues to improve, we could be a contender this year.”

Health is the biggest issue standing between Utah and its first national title in 10 years. The last two seasons ended in sixth place finishes at nationals, both due to stars being hurt.

In 2003, All-American Theresa Kulikowski fell on a bar routine in the finals, dooming the Utes’ chances. A year later, it was a different gymnast, but same result as Tidd missed the championships after coming down with mononucleosis.

But the championships are still three months away, and the Utes still have to post a strong showing in the here and now.

Michigan is 5-0 and coming off a win over Big Ten rival Penn. State last weekend in Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines are led by 2000 U.S. Olympian Elise Ray. Ray is the defending NCAA bars champion, and competes in bars, beam and floor.

Junior Jenny Deiley is the leading Michigan all-arounder, sporting a 39.225 average.

Postell leads the Utes’ all-around efforts, and is second in the country with a 39.537 average. The 2002 world beam champion has hit all nine of her collegiate routines.

Ford is tied for No. 13 in the nation in the all-around, sporting a 39.158 average. She won the all-around title versus Utah State, a meet that saw the sophomore win three of the four events.

Also having a 39.158 all-around average is Eberle, one of Utah’s two seniors. Eberle has hit 11 of 12 routines this season and 147 of 162 for her career.

With so many weapons at his disposal, Marsden is in the enviable position of not having enough competition slots to go around.

“It is getting increasingly difficult for me to pick a lineup this week as people are getting healthy,” Marsden said. “From my perspective, that’s a positive.”

The Utes get a chance to show off all that talent Friday night at 7 p.m. in the Huntsman Center.

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