Red Rocks eke out win over Michigan

As expected, the showdown between the No. 2 U gymnasts and the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines, came down to the wire. And like the Utes’ previous meets this year, the Red Rocks managed to pull out a close one, winning the meet 196.875- 196.525 in front of 10,909 fans at the Huntsman Center Friday night.

“It was a great gymnastics meet,” Ute coach Greg Marsden said. “The exciting thing was that either team could have let it get away from them, but both teams battled all the way through the meet.”

With the score back and forth all night, it came down to Gritt Hofmann, Utah’s anchor in the floor exercise. Like she’s done all season, Hofmann stuck her routine with a 9.925, giving the Utes the victory.

“It’s always good to perform the way I wanted to,” Hofmann, a senior, said. “I’m trying to enjoy my last year as much as I can.”

Ute freshman Ashley Postell won her third all-around of the season, posting a 39.375. Rachel Tidd, back in the all-around lineup for the first time this year, was impressive on all four disciplines and wound up tied for third with a 39.275.

The evening started off with a portent of what would come. The Utes were solid on vault, highlighted by three 9.875s, including one by Hofmann, and good enough to tie a career high.

The Utes would notch an overall vault score of 49.200, putting them just a nose behind Michigan, who started off with a 49.225 on uneven bars.

In rotation No. 2 the Utes would strike back, putting up a 49.500 on bars, their season-high for the apparatus.

The drama came at the end of the event, when Tidd-ranked first in the NCAA in bars-tied Michigan’s Elise Ray, second in the country, who had posted the same 9.95 score earlier in the night.

“I didn’t even know about it until after the meet,” Ray said about the one-versus-two matchup. “I just try to focus on myself.”

After two events, the Utes looked like they were in control, holding a 98.700- 98.275 lead on the Wolverines.

But as was the case all evening, the tide turned again.

The Utes, normally first-rate on the beam, had a difficult time, posting only one score above a 9.775, and having a fall by the normally steady Annabeth Eberle.

“They didn’t look as fluid and natural (on beam) as they normally do,” Marsden said. “It looked like they got to points in their routines and started thinking about it. You can’t do that.”

The disappointing beam performance, paired with Michigan’s good, but not great floor rotation, gave the Utes a slim 147.475-147.450 lead heading into the final event.

Boosted by Garbriella Onodi’s leadoff 9.825 opener, the Utes kept their focus throughout the event, capped off by Hofmann’s clutch finale.

“When Gritt’s on, there’s not a prettier gymnast,” Marsden said. “I think she’s as pretty as any gymnast on our team in three events.”

The Utes high overall score, paired with No. 1 UCLA’s 194.275 score on Friday, should be enough to put the Utes back at No. 1 after a week’s absence. The Red Rocks now head to Minneapolis, where they will take on No. 24 Minnesota Saturday evening.

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Player of the Meet: Rachel Tidd

Returning to the all-around for the first time this season, Tidd shook off the rust in a hurry. She stuck all four of her routines, including a tie with 2004 NCAA bar champion Elise Ray on the uneven bars. She tied for third in the all-around with a 39.275.