Utah gymnasts are no fallen angels

Utah tops Michigan » U. doesn't fall once, scores season-high.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Ever since claiming the No. 1 ranking three weeks ago, Utah's gymnasts have talked about avoiding complacency. The best way to do that, evidently, is to seek perfection.

They found a little bit of that perfection Friday as the Utes made it through a meet for the first time this season without any falls. They were rewarded for their efforts with a season-high score in a 197.525-195.35 victory over No. 15 Michigan in front of 12,517 at the Huntsman Center. Oh, and they got the weekend off.

"That was the biggest cheer," Utah coach Greg Marsden said of his announcement in the team locker room. "It blew the roof off."

The Utes' well-deserved break comes after a night in which not only the gymnasts who competed hit all their routines, but also the gymnasts who performed in exhibition. They're the gymnasts trying to earn spots in the lineup and prove they can handle the atmosphere of the Huntsman Center. Suffice it to say, the competition for lineup spots only got tougher after Friday because no one eliminated themselves by making major mistakes.

"To go in and hit 32-for-32 is hard to believe," Marsden said.

Actually it's not, said senior Kristina Baskett, who won the all-around with a 39.675.

She attributed the effort to the hard work the team has put into the season as a whole, not just the hard work from the stars.

"That shows how much depth we have," she said. "Even though we have a small team, we have a lot of depth."

The event that made the biggest difference for the Utes was balance beam. Falls and major breaks on the event haven't cost the Utes a meet since at Georgia on Jan. 19, but the miscues have been enough for beam coach Megan Marsden to get some good-natured ribbing from the other coaches that her event was a bit behind the others.

It didn't look like that Friday, as the Utes earned their second-highest score of the season on beam, a 49.325. It was the third meet in a row that the Utes scored a 49-plus on beam.

Nina Kim led the Utes with a 9.925, which tied her career high for the second meet in a row, and Baskett posted a 9.9. Robarts and Daria Bijak both earned 9.85s.

In a sign of how hard the Utes are pushing themselves, Bijak broke down after her routine because she took a step on the landing, costing her a bigger score.

"That was the one thing she wanted most tonight," Baskett said of the dismount.

Marsden, in keeping with his superstition, didn't watch the beam routines. However, he didn't need to see them to know the importance of a solid effort.

"You have to do a good job on that," he said of beam. "It may not win you a championship, but it sure can lose you one real fast. You have to go in there and be solid and be confident. You can't go in there and get to nationals and get cautious."

The Utes have a bye week now before their final three regular-season meets. The weekend of rest will be good, but then it's back to work Monday, Baskett said.

"We're working on getting everything set going into nationals," she said.



IN SHORT » The Utes head into bye week with a convincing win over the Wolverines, a team they've beaten six straight times.

KEY MOMENT » Daria Bijak started the Utes' competition with a 9.825 on the vault. The Utes earned their third-highest score on the event of the season (49.4).

KEY STAT » Senior Nina Kim earned a 9.925 on the beam, tying her career high for the second week in a row.

Individual winners

Vault » Kristina Baskett, Utah, 9.95

Uneven bars » Gael Mackie, Utah, 9.925

Balance beam » Nina Kim, Utah, 9.925

Floor » Kristina Baskett, Utah, 9.925

All-around » Kristina Baskett, Utah, 39.675