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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 road less traveled

By Tony Pizza

At some point during Nina Kim’s preparation for the balance beam, Red Rock captain Nicolle Ford takes Kim aside and gives her the best impression of a Tony Robbins pep talk that Ford knows how to give.

Kim and the rest of the U gymnasts will get an early opportunity to see what life will be like next year without their captain when they travel to Lincoln, Neb., to take on the No. 7 Nebraska Cornhuskers. Thankfully, it will only be a glimpse.

The Utes will still have several weeks with their queen, but for how many of those weeks they will be able to enjoy Ford’s presence in the lineup is still up in the air. As it stands, not only will Ford not be participating in the lineup against Nebraska, but she will not even be accompanying the team on the trip.

Even with Ford, the U gymnastics team would have been facing a very tough road as the Utes will compete against two of the nation’s top-10 teams in a five-day span, beginning with Nebraska on Sunday, and then playing host to No. 1 Florida at the Huntsman Center on March 9.

Without Ford, that upcoming road seems even harder. Making conditions even more treacherous is the fact that the Red Rocks will likely be without the services of freshman Annie DiLuzio for at least another week as well.

“Nebraska is a very good team that seems to get better each week. This will be another challenging test for us,” said U head coach Greg Marsden. “With the possibility of both Nicolle (Ford) and Annie (DiLuzio) being out of the lineup, it’s going to give some other people a chance to demonstrate what they’re capable of doing.”

Gymnasts such as Stephanie Neff, Jamie Deetscreek, Katie Kavisto and Jessica Duke will all play a role in filling in for the injured Red Rocks. It will be their chance to elevate their performances when the team needs them the most.

Ford’s absence will likely hurt the Utes the most on balance beam and bars. The Red Rocks could barely afford to lose another competitor on bars as it was, but now there are some large shoes to fill without the high scores that Ford has steadily turned in.

Of all the ways Ford’s absence will affect Utah, the Red Rocks’ considerably narrowed margin for error will be the biggest.

The good news for the Utes is that they seem to have made their greatest strides toward putting uncharacteristic mistakes behind them last week against Michigan. Nowhere was that more evident than in the way the Utes approached and worked the balance beam last week.

“I was really pleased with the approach by the group as a whole last Friday night. I feel like we were moving back into?what I like to call (the) ‘walk-through beam,'” said associate head coach Megan Marsden. “In layman’s terms, just being able to move across the beam like you’re on a sidewalk, and when you do that, you have to be looking aggressive.”

If the Red Rocks hope to soften the blow of their missing captain, it will likely start with how Ashley Postell and Kristina Baskett respond to the added pressure that will undoubtedly be placed on their shoulders.

In previous meets, one member of the star trio of Ford, Basket and Postell could falter and the other two could bear the remaining load. Now, Baskett and Postell will likely have to turn in mistake-free routines if the Utes are to have any chance of walking out of Lincoln with a win.

Notes: The Utes and Cornhuskers have two common opponents between them this year — Arkansas and Michigan. The Utes went 2-0 against the two teams with both wins coming at home. Nebraska lost on the road to Michigan, but beat the Razorbacks in Arkansas in a quad-meet earlier this season. The Utes are averaging 196.095 points this season, while the Cornhuskers aren’t far behind with a 195.895 average.

Mike Terry

The Red Rocks chant before hosting and defeating Michigan last Friday at the Huntsman Center. This weekend, they travel to face the seventh-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers on Sunday.

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