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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Unnecessary roughness

By Tony Pizza

Now that the Utah gymnastics team has a bench mark to their 2007 season set, things will likely be a little easier for Greg Marsden and his gymnasts going into the Red Rocks’ second meet.

Answers to injury problems and issues with routines were all addressed in practice this week, but the biggest question yet to be answered is how some of the gymnasts have healed mentally.

When a gymnast like Nicolle Ford has hit 159 out of 168 career routines, it’s only normal that her name would become synonymous with consistency.

So when Ford gets scores like the 9.6 she earned on the balance beam Friday night and then has an uncharacteristic stumble out of bounds resulting in a 9.45 on the floor, people tend to notice.

Another thing that wasn’t hard to ignore during the Red Rocks’ first meet against UCLA was the amount of pressure junior Ashley Postell seems to be putting on herself.

“I think especially Ashley (Postell) and Queenie (Ford) are putting a lot of pressure on themselves,” U head coach Greg Marsden said. “I really need to get them to relax and get back to just having fun and not worrying about outcome.”

It’s no surprise that Postell and Ford want to win. Both gymnasts are driven and determined, which has helped them get to the level they are today. But as Marsden has found out, when expectations are as high as Postell and Ford have for themselves, the results might not be what the gymnasts had in mind.

“I think they both want to do well and they both want to win, not only as a team, but as individuals, and I think they’re putting a lot of pressure on themselves awfully early,” Marsden said.

Ford is no stranger to self-induced pressure, either. After a promising freshman season, Ford admits she put a lot of pressure on herself during her sophomore year. That pressure prevented Ford from reaching her potential, and it wasn’t until her junior season that she was able to relax, put all expectations behind her and find the confidence that had gone missing a year earlier. Ford is intent on avoiding the same cycle during her senior year.

“I’m trying not to repeat the slump that I’ve created in the past,” Ford said.

So far, being the sole captain on the team hasn’t helped Ford, either. With so many newcomers on the roster, Ford found that she faced a difficult balancing act during the meet against UCLA.

“Yeah, I put some pressure on myself,” Ford said. “I tried to help my teammates prepare; I guess I forget to help myself in the process.”

Ford and Postell were obviously not themselves Friday night. At times, Ford looked like a coach as much as she looked like a gymnast. Many times, especially during the Utes’ floor routine, Ford could be seen analyzing a teammate’s routine while separated from the rest of her teammates, who were busy mimicking the memorable dance moves each gymnast has memorized over countless hours of practice.

Although Postell was visibly more interactive with her teammates on a less instructive basis, she lacked the playfulness that is usually a clear sign that she is relaxed and having fun.

These two examples might not be monumental on the obvious-o-meter, but they do suggest that Marsden has a good understanding of his team.

“That’s one thing Greg has told me that I don’t do well–when I try too hard it doesn’t work,” Ford said. “I guess I’ll have to work on that one.”

Ford and Postell are obviously important pieces if the Utes are going to contend for a National Championship, but they are more valuable if they can help establish a relaxed tone and keep themselves loose in the process.

“I think right now, Queenie and Ash might be thinking too much about, ‘We want to win the All-Around, we want to make finals,'” Marsden said. “They’re doing a good job with the team?I’m afraid they’re over-analyzing things and they need to just relax and get back to ‘Go have fun, do your routines and let the results take care of themselves.'”

Some of Postell and Ford’s teammates–such as Annie DiLuzio, Kristina Baskett and Jessica Duke–proved they are going to be solid contributors to the Red Rocks’ success this year. Now all the Utes need is the upper-class leaders to join the party and find a happy medium between keeping the intensity strong during practice and having fun when the crowds start filling the stands.

On the injury front, the gymnastics team has had some improvements.

Nina Kim is closer to 100-percent than she was a week ago, and she still feels confident despite falling on the beam a week ago.

“I’m feeling a lot better now actually,” Kim said. “I was out for the whole week (last week) but I’m better now and training.”

Daria Bijak will also get the opportunity to perform a bars routine in front of her new home crowd for the time in an exhibition Friday night.

The Red Rocks’ lineup against the Huskies, however, won’t vary from the one the Utes displayed against UCLA.

The tentative All-Around lineup will include Kristina Baskett, Jessica Duke, Ashley Postell and Nicolle Ford.

Annie DiLuzio and Nina Kim will be performing three events each, and Katie Kavisto will be performing on bars and floor.

Christopher Peddecord

Nicolle Ford talks with Nina Kim before she goes to the uneven bars Jan. 12 at the Huntsman Center.

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