The holidays came bearing injuries, not gifts, for the Red Rocks

By By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

With the exception of maybe Santa Claus, Greg Marsden and his gymnastics team are the only ones who know if they were naughty or nice last year.

Judging from the lumps of coal that many of the U gymnasts brought back from the Christmas break in the form of injuries and lack of preparedness, apparently many of the Red Rocks showed up on the naughty side of Santa’s list in 2006.

“It’s a fine line we’re walking right now,” Marsden said. “We have–since Christmas, for whatever reason–acquired a lot of problems.”

The newest members of the gymnastics team’s growing injury list are senior captain Nicolle Ford and Ashley Postell.

Over the Christmas break, Ford underwent an MRI and the results revealed some deteriorating cartilage in her left hip.

Postell sustained a bruise on her heel during a practice on January 5. This injury is the same one Postell suffered during warm-ups at nationals two years ago.

While Ford’s injury does not look like it will keep her out of the Utes’ first meet, she will be limited on the degree of difficulty she can perform against UCLA. In Postell’s case, the Red Rocks might not get so lucky.

Postell has established herself as the Utes’ best gymnast in the All-Around, and though her injury might still allow her to find her way onto the Utes’ bar lineup, it is possible that Postell will have to sit out the beam–which is arguably her strongest event–and the floor event, which is her personal favorite.

Injuries aren’t the only things that have hindered the type of preparation Marsden would have liked to see from his team leading into the first meet of the season. A lack of significant improvement from his freshmen is another reason the Red Rocks won’t be at their best to begin the season.

“They just didn’t get better during the Fall Semester. Every freshman does that, it’s just that we have six,” Marsden said. “We have to depend on them to contribute. In previous years, if they did, that’s great. That’s icing on the cake. This year it has to happen.”

The Red Rocks don’t have six freshmen anymore, either.

Three weeks before the end of Fall Semester, freshman Chelsey Coleman expressed to Marsden her intent of leaving the University of Utah and the gymnastics team at the end of 2006.

“She just had some personal problems and just made a decision to leave school and go home, so we wish her well,” Marsden said.

Marsden opted not to go into specifics on why Coleman left, but the 32-year head coach did say Coleman will not be returning to the U.

One freshman who has made great strides since coming to the U is Annie DiLuzio.

“Annie comes back on kind of a mission and she’s probably made the greatest strides, and I expect that she’ll compete in three sports,” Marsden said.

The fact that DiLuzio has shown so much improvement is even more impressive given the fact that she came to Utah with bone chips in her elbow and was limited in the amount of training she was able to participate in early on.

Those bone chips will prevent DiLuzio from competing in the bars event, as that event’s releases and grabs are hard on a gymnast’s elbows. However, DiLuzio could find herself in a starting rotation as early as the meet against UCLA.

Daria Bijak–the German All-Around Champion–is healing surprisingly well from her arthroscopic knee surgery that she had directly after she returned from the World Championships in October.

“There’s a chance Daria might do a bars set for us,” Marsden said. “Whether she’ll compete for us the first week is whether she feels good about landings or not on a hard surface.”

Kristina Baskett–who will be defending her 2006 co-National Championship on bars–is coming into the new season as close to 100 percent healthy as anyone on the team. Baskett has also shown improvement on the beam, which is the only apparatus that she was not consistently solid on.

With gymnasts like Ford and Postell injured, it is obvious the Red Rocks will not be in top form as they enter the 2007 season. Many routines will likely be watered down, and scores won’t be as high as Marsden would like them. But the good news is that the only direction the Red Rocks can go is up.

“We’ll need to get people healthy and become a better team as the season goes on if we really want to be in contention,” Marsden said.

Chris Peddecord

Freshman Daria Bijak works on the uneven bars at the Red Rocks preview on Dec. 8. The U gymnastics team opens the regular season against UCLA this Friday.