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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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Combination lock

By Tony Pizza

The Red Rocks return to the friendly floors of the Huntsman Center after two straight weeks on the road, where the Utes were stung with their first loss of the season at the hands of No. 2 Georgia last week.

Although the Utes scored their lowest total of the season when it counted most, the Utes did not spend this week licking their wounds. Instead, they focused on pushing the Georgia meet to the back of their minds while preparing for the chance to cleanse their palates of that loss against the Michigan Wolverines.

“We’re just trying to put (the Georgia) meet away,” Nicolle Ford said. “We’re not going to take things out just because they didn’t go so well. We’re still going to do the same thing that we did last week and see where we come out (after) sticking with the same plan.”

Floor will undoubtedly be one of the main focal points given the fact that it was that particular event that sunk the Utes against Georgia. The Utes will have to try to improve without freshman Annie DiLuzio, who is one of the best tumblers on the team.

DiLuzio experienced an Achilles tendon injury during her vault last week against Georgia, and the injury that hindered her floor routine later that night will keep her out of the lineup against Michigan. Balance beam will be another area in which the Utes will miss the contributions of DiLuzio and is sure to be a focal point in practice. The Utes saw a sizeable improvement against Georgia, but the four-inch apparatus remains the Red Rocks’ weakest link thus far.

Aside from the inconsistency the Utes have battled on beam and floor, confidence issues are becoming a glaring concern. And it hasn’t just been one gymnast either. It has been a problem that has affected the entire team at one point or another.

“I think, in general, as a team we’re having confidence issues,” Marsden said. “I really don’t want to single anyone out because it’s happened to different people in different weeks. All of them?have had issues with their approach to competition.”

This is perhaps the exact reason unpredictable mistakes and miscues have been the recurring theme for the U gymnastics team this year.

It seems that every week, fate selects a Ute gymnast to struggle more randomly than the selection of Keno numbers. And the results are not just little stumbles, either.

Kristina Baskett started the season with a new career high in the All-Around, only to fall on beam the following week. Ford had two straight weeks of 39.6 or higher in the All-Around, only to have another uncharacteristic fall on floor last week. Ashley Postell has not been free from mistakes, either. After she posted a season-high 39.55 against Minnesota, Postell has had back-to-back meets where something hasn’t gone her way. Even on floor, where Postell scored four straight 9.9s to start the season, she couldn’t get her legs under herself well enough last week to prevent a 9.45 from being flashed on the board in Athens, Ga.

Before the Georgia meet, Baskett, Ford or Postell had won all 25 events for the Utes to start the season. When any member of that star trio hits her routine, a solid score inevitably follows. Interestingly, those same three gymnasts have failed to hit all four of their routines in the same meet.

At the same time, the Utes are visibly building toward the end of the season. Injuries and inexperience littered the first portion of the season, but now as the Utes enter the midway point of the 2007 campaign, the pieces seem to be falling into place.

Daria Bijak is starting to round into shape, and she seems to be on the path toward being ready to compete in the All-Around by the season’s end. Sarah Shire and Nina Kim-who are both important pieces to the Utes’ championship hopes-are improving on a weekly basis and it is only a matter of time before each gymnast puts her best meet together. Even Jessica Duke, who has seen her role on the team dwindle as of late, continues to play an important role on the team, especially when an inevitable injury rears its ugly head.

According to the Ute coaches and gymnastics alike, they feel like they are due for a performance in a meet that resembles what goes on in practice. The Red Rocks aren’t even looking for a flawless meet so early in the season, but for the sake of their confidence and their hard work, it seems like a more complete effort is just around the corner.

“In the final analysis, you either hit your routines and are clean and score well, or you don’t,” Marsden said. “We can’t afford to keep throwing away, or not taking advantage of, those opportunities to get better.”

Tyler Cobb

Kristina Baskett performs on the beam against Utah State on Feb. 9. The Red Rocks take on Michigan tonight at 7 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.

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