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Utah's gymnasts were so upset with their vaulting at Georgia on Monday, senior Nina Kim said the team got together after the rotation had a talk and decided they needed to up their efforts.
Evidently that talk had an effect that lingered until Friday, when the No. 3 Utes (2-1) used a big vaulting rotation to jump ahead of No. 25 Washington Huskies (3-2) and coast to a 196.85-193.45 win in front of 12,099 at the Huntsman Center.
The Utes scored a 49.25 on the vault, not quite as high as they earned in the season opener against UCLA (49.425), but it was certainly better than the 49.075 effort they had at Georgia when nearly all of the Utes had trouble cleanly landing their vaults. They did a much better job Friday. The rotation was punctuated by a 9.925 for an upgraded vault by senior Kristina Baskett.
In the end the vaulting rotation was the highlight of the night for the Utes as they struggled elsewhere with their routines.
"I thought that wsa really the one event we took a step forward tonight," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "I was really excited. I didn't think we were going to be flat and I thought we'd get on a roll and have a great meet and that never really happened."
The Utes' meet was far from perfect with sophomore Gael Mackie, who started the night with a 9.8 on the vault, falling on the bars and beam while others had to fight to stay on the beam.
Utah had a strong floor showing, although landings weren't as crisp as the Utes would have liked.
"I didn't feel like there was a big letdown, but I didn't feel like we were as sharp as we were Monday," Marsden said. "The electricity just wasn't there."
Luckily for Utah, the Huskies struggled even more, suffering three falls on the floor which allowed Utah's one-point lead to grow to 147.525-144.85 going into the final rotation.
Even with the other struggles, the Utes could brag about their vaulting. That event was a strong one for Utah in 2008 and it looks like it will be a strength in 2009 too, particularly once Annie DiLuzio and Daria Bijak upgrade their vaults and Kyndal Robarts gets back into the lineup. Robarts hasn't competed in a meet this season because of a shoulder injury, but did go in exhibition Friday and showed she is ready to be back in the lineup whenever Marsden wants her in there.
Once the team is up to full strength, Marsden believes the Utes will use a variety of vaults. The different looks may give the Utes an edge over other top teams who use the same vaults over and over again, which can dull judges' impressions and in turn their scores.
"It's about impression, when you can show them a great variety with a lot of amplitude that impresses the judges and sets you apart a little bit," he said. "I think we're capable of doing that a little bit."
The Utes earned their season high Friday, an indication to all-around winner Kristina Baskett the Utes are still moving in the right direction, even if the win had its sloppy moments.
She predicted the Utes would be even stronger next week after a few days of practice. The Utes had just one practice leading up to Friday's meet since they competed Monday.
"It gives us something to reach for and improve on next week," she said of the errors. "I also think that some mistakes were early season mistakes. We improved our team score, that was our goal."
Utah 196.85, Washington 193.45
In brief » The Utes extended their winning streak to 11 straight over the Huskies with the decisive win.
Key moment » Washington had three falls on the floor and had to count two of them to fall far behind the Utes.
Key stat » While they've had mistakes, the Utes have yet to count a fall in a meet this season.
Vault » Kristina Baskett (Utah) 9.925
Balance Beam » Kristina Baskett (Utah) 9.9
Uneven Bars » Daria Bijak (Utah) and Kristina Baskett (Utah) 9.925
Floor » Kristina Baskett (Utah) and Daria Bijak (Utah) 9.875
All-Around » Kristina Baskett (Utah) 39.625
The Utes have tied but never lost to the Huskies, extending their mark to 38-0-1 Friday. Here is a look at other teams the Utes have competed against at least 10 times and have never lost.
New Mexico 18-0
Southern Utah 16-0
Boise State 10-0