Senior night for Utah's gymnastics team is several weeks away, but Katie Kivisto will get a run-through of sorts Friday when the second-ranked Utes compete at No. 3 Florida.
Kivisto, from Boca Raton, will have a large contingent of friends and family in the stands. It's one of the few chances they've had to see her compete. At one point, she never imagined she'd even make it to her senior year. Kivisto struggled with an eating disorder as a freshman and relapsed as a sophomore. Unhappy and uninspired, she walked into coach Greg Marsden's office and quit. He asked her to stay through the season.
"I went through it thinking this was my last year," she said of her sophomore season.
Then she hurt her elbow in March, an injury that technically should have ended her career if she had stuck to her timetable. Having the sport taken away from her made her realize she didn't want to leave it. Rejuvenated, she trained in the offseason for her junior year with a determination she didn't know she had.
"I recommitted myself to the sport," she said.
Through her career, Kivisto built a reputation as one of Utah's best leadoff gymnasts, most often on the uneven bars and floor. Typical of her performances was the 9.775 she scored on floor at the NCAA Championships last season as Utah's first competitor. The routine got the Utes off to a good start and seemed to relax her teammates as they began their Super Six evening.
"She plays a very defined role for us and has been great about accepting that and taking pride in it," Marsden said. "She is such an important part for us."
When the 2007 season was disintegrating around the Utes, Kivisto found a new role as one of Utah's leaders. She spoke up during a team meeting before the Utes competed at Nebraska.
"She told us we had to do it ourselves and it was up to us," junior Kristina Baskett said.
The Utes lost to the Huskers, but they performed well, and many say that weekend started their turnaround.
It's just one of the memories Kivisto is sure to enjoy when reminiscing at senior night on March 28.
"It has taken a lot to get through these four years," she said. "I didn't think it would be such an accomplishment to make it through, but it wasn't easy. I had to prove I could hang in there."
No. 2 Utah at No. 3 Florida
Friday, 5 p.m.