Full marks

Greg Marsden was expecting to see scores increase at the U’s fourth meet of the season, but a 197.20 still came as something of a surprise to the Ute head gymnastics coach.

“I don’t know what to say about the scoring this year,” Marsden said. “Some of the judges seem to be struggling to get on the same page. I never would have predicted that we’d get a 197 by this point in the season.”

The Utes (5-0)-ranked No. 2 before Friday’s Ken Garff Invitational in-state tri-meet with Utah State and Southern Utah-surpassed No. 1 Georgia’s 197.05 on the same night to stay within striking distance of the Bulldogs. No other NCAA team has scored higher than 196.2 yet this season, as judges across the nation have been instructed to crack down on excessive marks.

“I didn’t know if we would ever see a 197 again,” said junior team member Nicolle Ford.

The performance of Marsden’s Utes had a little something to do with the high scores as well. “To be fair, I think the really good scores came on some good routines,” Marsden said.

The Utes didn’t have to count a fall all night, thanks in large part to a breathtaking recovery on the balance beam.

Ford, Gritt Hofmann and Ashley Postell hit huge beam routines after freshman Kristina Baskett suffered the first fall of her collegiate career. Hofmann and Ford tallied 9.95s, while Ford chipped in a 9.925 for the highest event score (49.450) that the U has received this season.

“That was pretty hot,” said Ford, who split the all-around title with Ashley Postell (39.55) despite her coach’s reluctance to insert her into the vault and floor lineups this weekend because of a sore wrist.

“Greg made the decision (to sit me) on Monday without asking me,” Ford said. “I had some people coming to watch me, and I wanted to do all-around. Of course, I always want to do all-around.”

Ford’s 9.975 bar performance was the best individual event score the Utes have had this season.

Postell wowed a raucous Huntsman Center crowd of 12,563 people with a truly unique floor routine. Postell nailed all three of her difficult passes, capping off a double Arabian and a back two-and-a-half punch front with a rare triple twist.

“Every week she takes big steps forward,” Marsden said of Postell’s upgraded routine. “There are a couple of gymnasts in college who can do those first two passes, but to end with the triple twist-nobody else is doing that.”

The Utes’ scoring binge was even more impressive given the absence of freshman Nina Kim, who was out sick with the flu. Kim’s replacements in all three of her events stuck their respective routines. Taking her place was Kristen Riffanacht on beam, Dominique D’Oliveira on bars and Gabrielle Onodi on the vault.

“With Nina out, people really stepped up tonight,” Marsden said.

“She was not feeling well yesterday, so I told her she could compete on beams and bars but to call me if she wasn’t feeling better because there are people who want the opportunity to compete. She called in the morning and said she didn’t feel strong at all.”

Utah State scored a 192.675 despite not counting a fall, while Southern Utah posted a 193.175 despite counting three.

“Utah looked incredible,” SUU head coach Scott Bauman said. “It was a lot of fun to come here, with such a great crowd. It’s great to see the state of Utah fielding so many great teams.”

[email protected]