Utah gymnastics: Utes win regional, set sights higher
Gymnastics » Utah's athletes say they have had enough of second-place finishes.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Utah's gymnasts wore gold-tinged leotards Saturday to remind themselves they are tired of finishing second at the NCAA Championships. Now the Utes, who have finished second three years in a row, have the right to compete for that elusive gold trophy after winning the West regional here Saturday at the University of Washington.

The Utes posted a 197.675 to advance to the NCAA Championships April 16-18 in Lincoln, Neb. Also qualifying from the West region was Illinois with a 196.7. Failing to qualify were Boise State (195.3), Auburn (195.25), Washington (194.8) and San Jose State (194.8).

The Utes' score was the second-highest in the country Saturday, coming up just short of tying Georgia, which earned a 197.7 and goes in as the top seed. Utah goes to Lincoln as the second seed, which apparently is the last time the Utes want to be second.

"We've had our share of seconds," said senior Kristina Baskett, who won the all-around with a 39.65. "We are using them all up, now it's our turn to start getting some firsts."

Georgia is the only team to beat the Utes this year, doing so in January 197.15-196.725.

"I've felt all along Georgia and Utah were the two best teams week in and week out this year," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "But they are No. 1 until someone beats them."

Utah hasn't won a national title since 1995 while Georgia has won six since then, including the last four.

Baskett said the Utes have what it takes to end Georgia's streak.

"We know we can do even better than we did tonight," she said. "This is a meet that is going to boost our confidence even more."

As the top seed and with the closest competition to them being 11th-ranked Auburn, the Utes came into the meet knowing they should qualify for nationals easily even with an average showing. However, they made it clear beforehand they didn't just want to qualify, but wanted to do so convincingly to send them into the NCAAs with momentum.

That goal became a little more challenging to accomplish when senior Nina Kim was pulled from the lineup because of illness.

Her absence in the all-around forced the Utes to juggle lineups that have been virtually the same in recent meets with little used gymnasts taking her place.

Those changes never affected the Utes as they dominated from the start.

Utah, which randomly drew a rotation that started on the floor, opened up with a 49.55 on the event for its second-best performance on the floor of the season.

Leading the Utes on the event were Baskett and Annie DiLuzio with 9.95s.

Vault was nearly as good, with the Utes scoring a 49.45.

"Even without Nina we just kept getting stronger and stronger," Marsden said. "I felt good about every event."

Halfway through the meet it was apparent the Utes were simply more talented than their opponents as they threw bigger skills and made fewer mistakes than the other five teams sharing the floor.

Where other teams had bobbles and falls, the Utes consistently produced clean routines and stuck landings to draw big scores.

"This is a great confidence builder and something that should serve us well as we get ready to go to Lincoln," said Marsden.

Clinching the all-around title was extra satisfying for Baskett, who is from nearby Normandy Park, Wash., and had a large contingent of family members and friends in the stands. She didn't disappoint them, opening the night tying her career high on the floor with a 9.95 and matching that score on the vault.

"It made it a lot more fun, to be able to end my career here in a way," Baskett said.

Daria Bijak finished second in the all-around with a career-high 39.55 and Jamie Deetscreek was third with a 39.475.

The race for second and a spot at nationals came down to No. 11 Auburn and No. 14 Illinois. Auburn struggled on balance beam and had to count a fall on floor, which gave Illinois the opening it needed. It finished solid on beam, scoring a 49.2, to qualify for the NCAA Championships for the first time.

lwodraska@sltrib.com

2009 NCAA field

Seed, National

Team Qualifying

Score

1. Georgia 394.955

2. Utah 394.865

3. Alabama 393.925

4. LSU 393.635

5. Florida 393.49

6. Oregon State 393.32

7. UCLA 393.205

8. Oklahoma 393.065

9. Stanford 393.025

10. Arkansas 392.74

11. Illinois 392.715

12. Penn State 392.04

Note: Seeds 1, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 12 will compete in one session and the remaining team will compete in the other. A random draw will be used to decide which session competes earlier on April 16. ... National Qualifying Score is the team's regional qualifying score plus its regional meet score.

2009 NCAA field

Seed, Team National Qualifying Score

1. Georgia 394.955

2. Utah 394.865

3. Alabama 393.925

4. LSU 393.635

5. Florida 393.49

6. Oregon State 393.32

7. UCLA 393.205

8. Oklahoma 393.065

9. Stanford 393.025

10. Arkansas 392.74

11. Illinois 392.715

12. Penn State 392.04

Note: Seeds 1, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 12 will compete in one session and the remaining team will compete in the other. A random draw will be used to decide which session competes earlier on April 16. ... National Qualifying Score is the team's regional qualifying score plus its regional meet score.

Storylines

In brief » The Utes win their 26th region title and qualify for the NCAA Championships for a 35th consecutive season.

Key moment » Kristina Baskett has a small bobble on the beam but corrects herself in time to score a 9.825 and clinch the all-around title.

Key stat » The Utes open on floor for the first time but still score their second-highest mark of the season, a 49.55.

Individual winners

Vault » Kristina Baskett, Utah, 9.95

Uneven Bars » Thomasina Wallace, San Jose State, 9.95

Balance Beam » Jamie Deetscreek, Utah, 9.95

Floor » Kristina Baskett, Utah, and Daria Bijak, Utah, 9.95

All-Around » Kristina Baskett, Utah, 39.65

Individual winners

Vault » Kristina Baskett, Utah, 9.95

Uneven Bars » Thomasina Wallace, San Jose State, 9.95

Balance Beam » Jamie Deetscreek, Utah, 9.95

Floor » Kristina Baskett, Utah, and Daria Bijak, Utah, 9.95

All-Around » Kristina Baskett, Utah, 39.65