Gymnastics: With Postell out, Bijak seizes opportunity

PROVO — Sometimes an illness can be a blessing in disguise, even when it affects a team’s best competitor. Such was the case with the Utah gymnastics team and their top all-around athlete Ashley Postell.

After fighting a case of the stomach flu this week, Postell sat out of the all-around competition for the first time this season as the Red Rocks took on arch-rival BYU. The absence of the back-to-back national runner-up in the all-around championship from the floor and bars events not only opened the door for a few of her teammates to shine, it also provided one of her teammates with a clearer path to a victory in the all-around.

Daria Bijak took full advantage of Postell’s absence from the all-around and scored a 39.375. That score was good enough for the former two-time German national all-around champion’s first such win of her collegiate career.

“We need other people moving into those (all-around) places,” Utah head coach Greg Marsden said. “This is Ashley’s senior year. I need Daria to step forward and be the type of all-arounder she can be, and she’s capable of doing that. She’s capable of doing more than she did tonight.”

Bijak’s performance was good enough to set a new career high. Her night was highlighted by season highs on the uneven bars (9.900) and floor (9.825). Like Postell, Bijak’s performance was even more impressive given the fact that she started feeling sick before the meet started. It didn’t take her long to start feeling better, however.

“Once I started on bars, it was really good, so I got going,” Bijak said.

Nina Kim also had a solid showing in the all-around. In just her second appearance in all four events since 2006, Kim scored a 39.325, which included her second straight 9.900 on the balance beam. The Houston, Texas native followed up her career-high of 39.500 in the all-around last week with another high score that should keep her near the top of the all-around national rankings.

Kristina Baskett was the other Red Rock to compete in the all-around. Her step out of bounds during Utah’s third rotation on the floor all but put her out of contention for her first all-around win of the season.

With Postell out, fellow senior Katie Kavisto took her place on bars. Kavisto scored a 9.825, which was good enough for third best in the meet. Despite nursing a hot spot on her shin, Annie DiLuzio made it onto the floor lineup to fill in for Postell, and she too scored a 9.825, which tied for a meet high on the event.

“Me not doing bars and floor probably was good because then it gives other people a chance to get in and compete and stuff,” Postell said. “And then other people can try exhibition that haven’t before.”

With every gymnast seeming to hit their stride at once, Postell expects there to be other meets where she can take a few events off in order to give her teammates some much needed experience.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal if I took another meet off or something,” Postell said. “These are just practice meets until regionals and nationals. The more people that can try and compete the better.”

[email protected]