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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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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The new Ford focus

By Tony Pizza

Southern Tier Gymnastics coach Daile VanPatten has not been involved in Nicolle Ford’s gymnastics life since the U senior finished her club gymnastic days in 2003. Although the two have remained close throughout the years, VanPatten had never seen Ford compete in person during the three-plus years she has spent at the U.

All that changed Friday night at the Huntsman Center.

VanPatten watched along with the other 14,044 fans as Ford and the Red Rocks coasted to a win so easy, none of the other three teams were within two points of Utah’s final score of 196.150.

Ford led the way for the Red Rocks as she cruised to a win in the All-Around by posting a season-high combined score of 39.6 in a performance that was anything but ordinary for the Binghamton, N.Y., native.

“I knew this would be a great night for Nicolle (Ford),” U head coach Greg Marsden said. “Her club coach was here. I knew she would bring it tonight.”

Ford started the competition more collected and focused than she had been at any other time during the Utes’ first three meets of the season.

The sole U senior posted a meet-high 9.9 on vault that her teammate, Kristina Baskett, would go on to tie two performances later. The Red Rock captain then posted a meet-high 9.925 on bars, only to be matched by her sophomore teammate again.

Ford then watched as her teammates Annie DiLuzio and Baskett fell off the beam on the Utes’ next rotation, setting up a pressure situation for Ford.

When it came time to do her beam routine, she intensified her focus even more.

At one point during Ford’s routine, her gaze was so intense, she looked as if she could have vaporized the first three rows of the MUSS had she held her eyes on them for a few more seconds.

Ford executed her beam routine in the same near-perfect fashion as the previous two events and followed her stuck landing with a cock of her head to the roof and full extension of her arms as the applause from the Huntsman Center washed over her.

Ford capped off her best performance of the season when she debuted a double layout on the first pass of her floor routine. Ford–who has been rather inconsistent on floor all season–performed the routine upgrade smoothly and came away with a 9.875 to show for her efforts.

“She was on a mission tonight,” Marsden said. “I asked Daile (VanPatten), ‘Could you come to the rest of our meets?'”

Ford was not the only Red Rock to get off to a hot start.

The entire vault lineup came out with plenty of energy, and that energy led to a team performance where nobody scored less than a 9.775.

The rest of the teams competing in the four-team meet did not experience the same success.

Arkansas, which started out on bars, had two scary moments during its opening rotation as Michelle Stout–who also competed at Southern Tier Gymnastics–completely missed the top bar on her release and plummeted some 10 feet before face-planting on the mat below.

Casey Jo Magee followed Stout, and she also experienced a dangerous moment as she lost her grip while building speed for her dismount. Magee hurled through the air like a lug nut wrench. Much to her and the crowd’s relief, the Razorback freshman walked away from the scare moments later.

A big reason for Arkansas’ shaky start was the team’s nightmare trek to Utah for the meet.

A commercial aircraft malfunction stranded the team outside of Dallas for most of Thursday night and Friday morning. The Razorbacks didn’t even make it to Utah until just before warm-ups started at 5 p.m. Despite all the troubles, the Razorbacks still finished in second place with a score of 193.625.

“Next time we will try to make some different travel arrangements,” Arkansas head coach Mark Cook said. “We built a lot of character?hopefully we go home, lick our wounds, regroup and go from there.”

Arkansas was not the only team that had mishaps. BYU also had a gymnast who landed on her face during bars, and many of the Southern Utah gymnasts had falls during all four of their rotations.

Utah was not exempt from costly falls, either. Besides Baskett and DiLuzio’s trouble on beam, Ashley Postell experienced her own set of hiccups Friday night.

After the 10-time All-American scored a 9.875 on vault, she stumbled to her knees on her bars dismount. Postell then fell off the beam while trying to reinsert a front-back into her routine for the first time since bruising her heel in preseason.

“She’ll be fine, it’s just an off-night for her,” Ford said.

Despite Postell’s mishaps and the Utes’ inability to get through a beam rotation cleanly, there were a few positive notes for the Utes on Friday.

Baskett was able to work a full-in into her first pass on floor, and she also worked a half twist into her vault routine. The U sophomore performed both upgrades like she has been doing them all season.

Sarah Shire also made a strong case for why she should stay in the starting lineup on vault and beam by scoring a 9.85 and 9.80, respectively.

Notes: Daria Bijak proved she is closer to fully recovering from knee surgery. She did a beam routine in exhibition for the first time Friday. With Stephanie Neff doing an exhibition bar routine, every Red Rock has now performed to some extent for the Utes this season. Before Friday, Postell had never missed two or more routines during the same meet in her entire collegiate career.

Kim Peterson

Nicolle Ford sticks the landing after her beam routine Friday in the Huntsman Center. Her 9.9 helped lead the Utes to a win over visiting Arkansas, BYU and Southern Utah.

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