Beam of fright

By By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

After Sarah Shire barreled across the floor of the Huntsman Center and launched her body into the air for the first scoring vault of her collegiate career, it seemed like a good night in the makings for the U gymnastics team.

Shire’s 9.85 set just the right tone for the Red Rocks, as the team combined to score a 49.4, the highest they have scored on any event so far this season.

The momentum the Red Rocks established on vault looked to be just the beginning, as the Utes nearly matched their season high on bars on their next rotation. With two solid events in the books, the Red Rocks looked poised to capture their highest score of the season, and possibly move up in the rankings, if they could get through the event that has been their weakness all season long.

But like all Achilles’ heels, the beam got the best of the Utes again, nipping them worse than it has all season.

Nina Kim did her best to start the Utes off right with a 9.85 – a season best for the U sophomore – but things went downhill fast for the Red Rocks after that.

Kristina Baskett and Annie DiLuzio both made it look like a thin layer of hog fat had been applied to the beam, as both gymnasts fell off the apparatus and left the Utes in a tough position. With the Utes only able to throw out one of their low scores, Utah was assured of having one of the falls count toward the combined final. To Shire and Nicolle Ford’s credit, they did all they could to ensure that only one low score would count.

Ashley Postell, however, increased the Utes’ casualty count on beam when she failed to execute a front-in and became the third Ute to fall off the beam that night.

“We’re just not putting it all together?we’re not competing balance beam with confidence,” U head coach Greg Marsden said.

Not only did the Red Rocks’ performance on beam kill the Utes chances of posting their highest score of the year, but it actually hurt them to the point that they dropped in the national rankings because of it.

“It should drop us,” Marsden said after the meet. “We’re a very good three-event team right now, but we’re not a good all-around team right now. We’re giving away too much on balance beam.”

For Marsden, the glaring reason for his team’s inadequacy on beam is the way it is approaching gymnastics’ most precise event. Not only are the Utes not showing the same confidence they possess on the other three events, but some of the Red Rocks look plain scared to fall off the beam, which is exactly what happens when nerves set in.

“Someday, if we’re going to compete, we have to decide we’re going to win (beam),” Marsden said. “We can’t win by playing defense on that event, and that’s what it looks like we’re doing.”

It’s not like the Utes – who are now ranked No. 4 – are ignoring beam in practice, either. Beam is possibly where the Utes devote more time than any other event. Gymnasts like Baskett – who has fallen on beam two out of the four meets this season – feels confident every week during practice. But success in practice hasn’t exactly translated to success in the meets for the Utes.

On top of the fact that the Red Rocks have yet to go an entire meet without falling on beam, they have already had six miscues on that event, which is more than they have experienced in the other three events combined.

“We all know what the problem is and what we have to work on,” Ford said. “It’s just getting everyone to calm down, basically. Everybody knows how to do beam; they just have to have more confidence.”

The Utes will have one more chance to get their beam routines into shape at Utah State this weekend before they make the long trip to Athens, Ga., to take on the No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs.

Christopher Peddecord

Kristina Baskett leaps along the beam at Friday’s Red Rocks meeting with BYU, SUU and Arkansas at the Huntsman Center.