Gymnastics: Red Rocks rebound at Michigan

By By Jon Gilbert and By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

Order has been restored in the Utah gymnastics team’s universe.

The Red Rocks bounced back from their loss last week to Florida by conquering Michigan 197.425-196.325 in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Friday.

After posting two sub-197.00 scores, No. 3 Utah (11-1) was looking to get back on track — but that isn’t so easy when visiting No. 4 Michigan (18-1), where Utah was 1-5 all-time before Friday.

Head coach Greg Marsden had mentioned leading up to the meet that it would be fun for his team to enter a challenging environment. Michigan was undefeated before Friday’s meet, and Utah had not won in Ann Arbor since 2001. After improving against Florida in a loss, Utah showed the nation it has fully recovered.

“Obviously we have the potential to be better than we were last week,” Marsden said.

The Red Rocks grabbed a 0.2 lead after the first rotation while on the uneven bars. Nina Kim started Utah off with a 9.85 in her first bars routine in six weeks. Kim last performed on the bars against BYU on Feb. 8 and has been working her way back from a foot fracture.

Kristina Baskett won the event with a 9.925, and Ashley Postell anchored the team with a 9.90.

Michigan fell behind despite posting solid scores on vault. No gymnast was able to eclipse the 9.90 barrier, however, and Nellie Kippley fell in the final spot of the rotation.

Michigan experienced a fall on every event but only had to count one. Both Lindsey Bruck and Jordan Sexton fell on balance beam.

Two weeks ago against Oregon State, Postell fell on her bars routine and her beam routine. Last week against Florida, the senior struggled to a 9.775 on her beam routine in a losing effort. Postell, the nation’s top all-around performer, returned to her steady ways by earning her seventh all-around victory of the season at the Michigan meet.

“Tonight was much closer to the old Ashley,” Marsden said.

Postell’s meet-winning 39.70 is her third highest mark of the season. By winning the vault, beam, floor and all-around events on Saturday, the senior now has 108 career wins, just four shy of Theresa Kulikowski’s record set in 2003.

Utah looked more like a Super Six contender than it had in a few weeks. This was thanks in part to Postell’s performance, but it had more to do the with the team’s health.

Kim returned to the all-around competition for the first time since the team’s meet against BYU. She was not penciled in to perform floor, but she was ready when Marsden decided to sub her in for Baskett at the last minute.

Baskett “crunched” her feet when she landed her vault routine, aggravating a bone bruise in her right ankle that she has been dealing with all season, Marsden said. Kim was scheduled for an exhibition routine, so she was ready to step in for Baskett. Baskett was still able to compete on the beam.

Marsden took comfort in the fact that he had several gymnasts to turn to when he decided to sit Baskett. Along with Kim, Katie Kivisto and Stephanie Neff’s names passed through his mind.

Confidence was wavering a bit for Utah after an unimpressive showing against Oregon State on March 7 and a loss to Florida on March 14. But with its third highest mark of the season, Utah is looking to be back in midseason form in preparation for regionals in April.

Marsden is happy with his team’s resilience over the season. The Red Rocks have used many different lineups due to injuries and have responded well to challenging circumstances, he said.

Utah has one last chance to prep for the postseason. BYU visits the Huntsman Center March 28 on senior night.

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Aaron Schwendiman

Utah gymnast Ashley Postell earned a 39.70 score to win the all-around title against Michigan.