Almost is enough

By and

CORVALLIS, ORE.-Though the U’s second-place effort in the team competition at the NCAA Championships on Friday night was far from perfect, even perfection may not have been enough to top an unbelievable performance from No. 1 Georgia.

“It was machine-like,” said Ute head coach Greg Marsden of Georgia’s 197.75, which topped Utah by almost a full point (196.80). “They’re so deep and so confident and determined, and they demonstrated that throughout the season.”

It is the second-straight NCAA title for the Gym Dogs, who now have seven overall under head coach Suzanne Yoculan. Georgia also finished the season undefeated for consecutive seasons.

“It was a picture-perfect season from the very beginning,” said Yoculan. “We worked on mental strength all season. We knew we had everything physically, but we spent a lot of time working on the belief that comes from within and camaraderie that raises the level of performance to another level.”

Asked how she accomplished this mentality, Yoculan replied slyly, “I don’t want to give away my secrets.”

Ute senior Gritt Hofmann expected nothing less from the Gym Dogs.

“We knew Georgia was going to be good,” she said. “They had an undefeated season, they won regionals, and it was kind of obvious that they would win nationals-they were so strong. We’ve struggled throughout the season. Through my head, (Friday) night, being perfect and beating Georgia was kind of unrealistic. But finishing second is great for us.”

For a brief time, the Utes didn’t even think they’d have a chance to place that high. Seeded 11th out of 12 teams headed into the championships, the Utes stumbled through the first day of competition and barely nabbed a spot in the “Super Six” on Thursday.

They seemed to turn things around early Saturday, though, with senior Dominique D’Oliveira’s season-best 9.775 and sophomore Jessica Duke’s 9.80 to open on bars, but things got shakier after that.

After Nina Kim received a sub-par 9.65, Ashley Postell fell on a transition and the Utes only managed a 48.950 out of the gates, putting them in a trailing position that they would hold for the remainder of the night.

The Utes came out a squad possessed on the balance beam in their second rotation, posting the top score of the night with a 49.325, highlighted by Ashley Postell’s 9.95.

Still in just fifth position, the Utes waited and watched Florida and Nebraska stumble before them, as Alabama and Georgia continued to roll out one steady performance after another.

The Utes received a solid score of 49.175 on floor despite a hop out of bounds from freshman Kristina Baskett.

Utah once again stepped up its intensity on vault, as the whole lineup hit huge routines directly in front of the hundreds of Utah fans who made the trip to Corvallis.

“We were thrilled,” said Marsden. “We hoped that we’d be challenging for the championship. Once we struggled on bars, we knew we’d need to have a lot of pride and be strong for the rest of the event.”

While the Utes sat out the final rotation, Georgia and Alabama were neck-and-neck headed into bars for the Gym Dogs and beam for the Tide. Yoculan’s squad was as mechanic as ever, hitting every landing, while Sarah Patterson’s Alabama team finally faltered on beam, with its fourth and fifth competitors falling and dropping the Tide from second to third, behind Utah.

The Utes were, for the most part, content with their final finish.

“To tell you the truth, I thought that if there was anything we could get accomplished, it would be second place,” Nicolle Ford said. “It’s absolutely thrilling for us right now.”

The Associated Press

Ashley Postell performs on the balance beam during team championship competition at the NCAA championships in Corvallis, Ore.

Kamil Krzaczynski

U gymnast Kristina Baskett performs on the uneven bars during the U’s meet with Southern Utah earlier this season. Baskett tied with Georgia’s Courtney Kupets for the national title on the apparatus Saturday in Oregon. As a team, the Red Rocks finished second behind Georgia’s Gym Dogs.