April 6, 1998
TEMPE, ARIZ.--The No. 3 ranked University of Utah gymnastics team shot out to a huge lead at the Midwest Region Championship, then held on for dear life to win its 11th-consecutive regional crown. The Utes, who automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships with their win, led then second-place Nebraska by a comfortable .75 margin after three events. But, on the normally safe floor exercise, the Utes fell apart and nearly fell from first.
Senior All-American Traci Sommer made sure that didn't happen, finishing Utah's set with a spectacular 9.875 routine that preserved Utah's victory. The Utes scored a 195.575, ahead of Brigham Young (195.500), host Arizona State (195.025), Arizona (194.750), Nebraska (194.275), Oklahoma (193.125) and Utah State (191.175).
The win qualified Utah for the 1998 NCAA Championships in Los Angeles, April 16-18. It will be Utah's 17th trip in as many years to the NCAA, tying the Utes with Florida as the only schools to reach every NCAA Championship.
Utah started fast out of the blocks, despite an hour and a half layoff between the end of warmups and its first event. Led by Shannon Bowles' 9.875, Utah rang up its second-best vault score of the year--a 49.075. Angelika Schatton tied her career high with a 9.80, matching teammate Traci Sommer. Angie Leonard's 9.825 set up Bowles' big score.
On their next event, the Utes again looked strong, with their 3- 4-5 competitors (Denise Jones, Molly Northrop and Bowles) each contributing a 9.825. But Leonard, Utah's best bar performer and a first-team All-American a year ago, fell on her dismount. It was Leonard's first fall since her freshman year on an event where the junior has hit 35 of 37 routines in her career. The result was a still respectable 48.850, which put Utah in first at the meet's midway point with a 97.925.
Utah sat out with a bye after bars, then returned to rock the beam, scoring a 49.225--its second highest score of the year and its best in two months. Molly Northrop started things off with a season-high 9.825. The Utes would throw out Ashley Kever's 9.65, which was followed by Theresa Wolf's 9.825 in a substitute's role. Wolf filled in for all-arounder Jones, who tweaked her already injured back in warmups and was forced to withdraw from beam and floor. Wolf merely got the Utes warmed up. Leonard bounced back from her bar mishap with a season-best 9.85. Bowles equalled that, setting the table for Sommer, who knocked out a 9.875.
The Utes left the floor for their final bye with a 147.15 three- event total, well ahead of Nebraska's 146.40 and BYU's 146.35. But they left their momentum in the locker room. Marilyn Ekdahl, who replaced the injured Jones, fell. Leonard temporarily righted Utah with a 9.775 and Kever turned in a spectacular 9.85. But Wolf took a fall and Bowles stepped out of bounds, putting Utah's title hopes in danger before Sommer unleashed her 9.875.
"We did the best vault we've done all year and we did a nice job on bars," said Utah Head Coach Greg Marsden. "Our balance beam was one of our best of the year and we were poised to do a great job on floor. Instead, we made it a close meet by having to count a fall. We could have won it easily and instead almost gave the meet away. We're happy to come out of here healthy and moving on. With the exception of mental mistakes on floor, we did a real nice job," added Marsden.
Ute freshman Shannon Bowles finished second in the all-around with a 39.150.
NCAA Midwest Regional Championship 1. Utah 195.575 2. Brigham Young 195.500 3. Arizona State 195.025 4. Arizona 194.750 5. Nebraska 194.275 6. Oklahoma 193.125 7. Utah State 191.175
1. Heather Brink (Nebraska) 39.475, 2. Shannon Bowles (Utah) 39.150, 3. Angela Anderson (BYU) 39.025, 4. Christy Denson (Utah State) 39.00, 5. Natalie Emig (BYU) 38.975, 6. Kara Fry (Arizona) 38.925, 7. Tenli Poggemeyer (Arizona) 38.825, 8. Angie Leonard (Utah) 38.800, 9. Ginger Russell (Oklahoma) 38.800, 10. Kim Little (BYU) 38.500.
1. Carie Courtney (Arizona State) 10.0, 2. Michelle Hess (Arizona State) 9.95, 3. (tie) Amy Shelton (Arizona State), Heather Brink (Arizona State) 9.90, 5. (tie) Shannon Bowles (Utah), Lisa Vincijanovic (Arizona State), Kim Little (BYU) 9.875.
1. Heather Brink (Nebraska) 9.90, 2. Natalie Emig (BYU) 9.875, 3. (tie) Kristin McDermott (Arizona), Denice Pauga (Brigham Young) 9.85, 5. (tie) Shannon Bowles (Utah), Denise Jones (Utah), Mollly Northrop (Utah), Megan Wright (Arizona State), Angela Andersen (BYU), Amber McEwen (Oklahoma) 9.825.
1. (tie) Meagan Wright (Arizona State), Tenli Poggemeyer (Arizona), Angela Andersen (BYU) 9.90, 4. (tie) Traci Sommer (Utah), Elizabeth Reid (Arizona State), Ginger Russell (Oklahoma) 9.875.
1. Elizabeth McNabb (Arizona State) 9.925, 2. Heather Brink (Nebraska) 9.90, 3. (tie) Traci Sommer (Utah), Amy Shelton (Arizona State) 9.875, 5. Ashley Kever (Utah), Lisa Vincijanovic (Arizona State), Jess Swift (Nebraska) 9.85.