Red Rocky

By and

Who knew it would end up being this easy?

With No. 9 Michigan and No. 14 Auburn lurking in wait of a Ute mistake, it came as something of a surprise that Utah’s sub-par score of 195.70 held up at the NCAA Northeastern Regionals in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Saturday-clinching the U’s 31st-consecutive national championship meet appearance.

The host Wolverines put on a solid showing for the hometown Crisler Arena crowd, winning easily with a 196.0 and nabbing the top seed in the region for the NCAA Championships in Corvallis, Ore. (April 20-22).

After Michigan, though, things got ugly between the meet’s other contenders.

Auburn struggled mightily, failing to post even an average score-which would have rivaled the U’s third-worst score of the year. The Tigers fell six times-three on bars, three on beam-on their way to a disappointing 193.050.

But the U didn’t exactly “capitalize.”

The leadoff routines of seniors Kristen Riffanacht (9.50 on floor), Dominique D’Oliveira (8.95 on bars) and Gabriella Onodi (9.30 on beam) all failed to find their mark, while sophomore Ashley Postell (vault) and freshman Kristina Baskett (beam) also suffered falls.

Nonetheless, Auburn was mathematically out of competition by the final rotation, in which the Utes had a bye.

Junior Nicolle Ford took the all-around title with a 39.40 and took the beam title with a 9.90. Freshman Nina Kim also responded well to the pressure of her first regional meet, scoring 39.25 in the all-around and securing the U’s lead on beam with a 9.85 after the falls of Onodi and Baskett.

New Hampshire finished fourth (192.50), Pittsburgh fifth (190.9) and Rutgers placed sixth (188.975).

The other teams to qualify for the NCAA Championships were Oklahoma, LSU, Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, Nebraska, Arizona State, Iowa State, Stanford and Alabama.

Now that the national championship field has been determined, a random draw will create two preliminary groups-the afternoon session and the evening session-on the first day of the NCAA Championships. The top three teams from each group then advance to the true final meet, or the “Super Six.”