Lincoln, Neb. » Conquering the balance beam not only took hard work for Kristina Baskett in the preseason; in the end, it took a little blood, too.
Baskett, who represented Utah's gymnastics team on three events in Saturday's individual finals of the NCAA Gymnastics Championships, cut her finger on a piece of equipment just before her balance beam routine.
The blood she dripped all over the beam and herself was symbolic of the effort she has put into the event. But in the end, she felt like she'd beaten it, taking third place on the balance beam to go along with third-place showings on the uneven bars and vault at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. Teammate Daria Bijak was fifth on the floor.
Baskett finishes her career as a 12-time All-American and a four-time All-American on bars, highlighted by her 2006 performance when she tied Georgia's Courtney Kupets for first.
For a gymnast who once considered the bars her worst event, she became amazingly consistent on it. This year, she scored 9.9 or better in 13 out of her 14 performances. The only time she failed to do so was when she fell at Oregon State on Jan. 30.
However, it was her beam performance she was most proud of Saturday, and not because she had to compete with a last-second injury.
"Beam has been my roughest event I've had trouble with in my career," she said. "It's been a gradual build, and I told [assistant coach Megan Marsden] it was going to be my best event this year, and it almost was tonight."
Baskett knew she had to improve her beam performances this year if she wanted to contend for the all-around. She did that, never falling off the beam this season.
"It means a lot to me, to be third," she said. "I never thought I'd be doing that this weekend, even just doing beam finals. It was one of the many surprises I've had at Utah."
Earlier in the day Baskett was named a finalist for the 2008-09 Honda Award -- which goes to the top collegiate gymnast -- along with Georgia's Courtney Kupets, LSU's Ashleigh Clare-Kearney and Denver's Jessica Lopez.
Kupets was the star of the individual competition Saturday, winning the balance beam and bars and tying for first on the vault with Clare-Kearney. She was third on the vault, an event won by Clare-Kearney.
Her performances Saturday gives her an NCAA-record nine individual titles. She is also the first gymnast to win a national title on every event and the all-around.
Kupets won the all-around Thursday with a 39.8 while Baskett was second with a 39.6.
"Kris is someone who struggled with consistency and never accomplished what she wanted to prior to college, but absolutely blossomed in college," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "It was great for her and she became a star. She was right behind an Olympic champion in Thursday's all-around and certainly one of the best athletes to ever compete."
1. Ashleigh Clare-Kearney, LSU, 9.9
2. Susan Jackson, LSU, 9.8938
T3. Kristina Baskett, Utah; Courtney Kupets, Georgia, 9.8563
1. Courtney Kupets, Georgia, 9.95
2. Carly Janiga, Stanford, 9.9125
T3. Kristina Baskett, Utah; Alicia Goodwin, Florida, 9.9
T13. Elise Wheeler, SUU; Alexandra Brockway, Penn State, 9.7875
1. Courtney Kupets, Georgia, 9.9875
2. Courtney McCool, Georgia, 9.95
T3. Kristina Baskett, Utah; Ashley Priess, Alabama; Sarah Nagashima, Arkansas, 9.9
6. Elise Wheeler, SUU, 9.875
1. Courtney Kupets, Georgia and Ashleigh Clare-Kearney, LSU, 9.95
3. Corey Hartung, Florida 9.9
5. Daria Bijak, Utah, 9.875
2006 » tied for first on uneven bars
2007 » fourth on uneven bars
2008 » second on vault
2008 » sixth on uneven bars
2009 » tied for third on uneven bars
2009 » tied for third on vault
2009 » tied for third on balance beam