Baskett, Kim have fueled U.'s success

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From the All-American awards, to the 9.9-plus routines to the clutch performances, results show how seniors Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim have helped Utah's gymnastics team succeed.

But what they've done for the second-ranked Utes off the competition floor has been as crucial to victories as what they've done on it.

Baskett and Kim, who perform for the last time at home tonight when Utah (10-1) hosts No. 4 Florida (6-3), have been instrumental to the Utes as leaders on the team.

It's natural for seniors to have the role as point person for teams but Baskett and Kim have gone above and beyond the normal responsibilities of upperclassmen.

"They took the responsibility very seriously and went about it very thoughtfully," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "They had an organized, systematic approach and talked about what they wanted to accomplish and the approach they needed to take."

Baskett and Kim started planning in the summer when they had a sleepover and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, poring over materials Kim brought back from a student leadership seminar she attended in Florida.

"We picked out stuff we wanted to use," Baskett said. "There was a lot that got us excited and we talked about how we could put it into action."

Among their priorities was motivating the team, preventing any possible division between the upper and underclassmen and having long-term goals for the season.

The result has been just what they'd hoped for. The Utes have been more consistent than they have been in several seasons and have formed the strongest team, in the sense of the word, that the Utes have recently had thanks to the many bonding efforts such as team retreats Kim and Baskett implemented.

"Coming in as a freshman, I never saw myself as a leader," Kim said. "In Florida, they taught us how to embrace different sides, that there can't be just one person bossing everyone around and what has to happen behind the scenes. We took all those ideas and applied them to this season. It's our last shot at a national championship and Kris and I talked a lot about what we wanted to accomplish and what we needed to do."

The Utes still have a month to go before they get their shot at the NCAA Championship, but no one will say that Baskett and Kim haven't done all they could to help the team have their best chance at winning.

Utah, which has finished second the last three seasons, has seemingly done the impossible by becoming an even stronger team the year after all-time great Ashley Postell graduated.

The difference has been the leadership from Kim and Baskett and the way they've helped everyone be accountable for the team's performance.

"They've helped us this year from the start," junior Jamie Deetscreek said. "At the retreat they had us doing a lot of activities and had sentimental things written down to inspire you. It got everyone excited about having a good season. Nina is the more mothering one and Kris is the peppy one, always happy and pumping you up."

They've led with their actions, too. Baskett is ranked second nationally in the all-around and leads the Utes with 23 wins. Kim is ranked 11th in the all-around and is second with eight wins.

Together they've given the Utes a great season, which makes the thought of saying goodbye to them on Senior Night tonight that much harder for Marsden.

"The way they prepared themselves and this team for this year has been spectacular," he said. "How well thought out in advance their planning was, I don't remember ever having people take the approach they have."

Leaders on and off the floor

Today's meet is the last home meet for Baskett and Kim. Here is a look at some of their season highlights:

Kristina Baskett

» Leads Utes with 23 victories

» Ranked No. 2 in the all-around, bars

» Ranked No. 3 on vault

» Has hit 34 of 36 routines this season

Nina Kim

» Second on team with eight victories

» Ranked No. 11 in all-around, No. 6 on beam

» Has hit 33 of 34 routines this season

No. 4 Florida at No. 2 Utah

Today, 7 p.m.

Huntsman Center