NCAA Gymnastics Championships: Winning Baskett

Ute shares championship in uneven bars
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CORVALLIS, Ore. - Kristina Baskett considers the uneven bars her worst event. Like most national champions, she apparently has a high standard for herself.

Baskett became Utah's first uneven bars champion since Angie Leonard in 1999 on Saturday, scoring a 9.85 to tie Georgia's Courtney Kupets, the 2002 world bars champion.

"I'm honored to share the award with someone I've looked up to for such a long time," Baskett said. "It was my worst event in club and I can't describe how I feel to have conquered my fears and troubles on bars, and to experience this is unbelievable."

Alabama's Ashley Miles won the vault title with a 9.9375. She also won the championship in 2003 and 2004.

The balance beam title was shared by LSU's April Burkholder and Kupets, who scored 9.9125s. Floor was won by UCLA's Kate Richardson with a 9.95.

Out of the 11 gymnasts who competed on the bars, Kupets went first and Baskett went third, leaving them both with a long wait to see if the scores would hold. The last competitor up, Arizona State's Ashley Kelly, came close, scoring a 9.8375.

"At first I was just excited to do a good routine," Baskett said. "Then I started thinking, 'Hey, I could actually finish third,' then it was second and then I won."

Baskett was steady on the bars throughout the weekend, scoring a 9.9 on Thursday and 9.875 on Friday, the team highs on both nights.

"I just started to get so much confidence," Baskett said. "Winning this tonight is going to give me even more confidence for next year. I've always looked up to people like Courtney and Ashley [Postell] and it's made me push myself more."

Utah coach Greg Marsden said Baskett's routines were clean, and left the judges with a good impression by sticking her dismounts.

"It's really thrilling to have someone on the top of the podium again," he said. "It has been a long time."

Postell finished seventh on the balance beam with a 9.8, eighth on the vault with a 9.7813 and fifth on the bars with a 9.7875.

Postell pulled out of the floor lineup because of fatigue. She was the only gymnast who competed in the all-around Thursday and Friday and qualified for all four events Saturday.

"It just wasn't a good night to do floor," Postell. "The team competition was the most important anyway."

Nicolle Ford was Utah's highest finisher on the vault, scoring a 9.7875 for seventh and Gritt Hofmann finished last out of 10 competitors with a 9.725. Ford also finished sixth on the bars with a 9.775.

Ford hates the vault so much she doesn't warm up on the event and she threatened not to compete Saturday out of fear and the lack of a quality second vault.

After throwing a good first vault, she balked on her second as she ran down the runway. After a couple deep breaths, she completed her second vault.

"I'm not used to competing two vaults like that so fast," she said. "I get really flustered. I'm just glad to get it done."

Hofmann's inclusion in the vault lineup was the least expected event for her, she admitted. She landed deep on the first and took a hop on the second, but still received a standing ovation from Utah's 300-plus fans in recognition of her career.

"I'm definitely sad it's over," Hofmann said. "To finish second as a team tops it off. I didn't think we could beat Georgia, but to finish second was great."

Individual competition

IN SHORT - Kristina Baskett is Utah's first event champion since Theresa Kulikowski won the balance beam in 2001.

KEY STAT - Baskett scored 9.85 or higher all three nights of the NCAA competition

KEY MOMENT - Baskett nailed her dismount, then had to wait to see if the performance was good enough to tie the world champion's.

Utes' top performers

Name event place

Kristina Baskett bars T-1st

Ashley Postell bars 5th

Nicolle Ford bars 6th

Ashley Postell beam 7th

Nicolle Ford vault 7th