Baskett crushes Minion's hopes

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MINNEAPOLIS - Kristina Baskett's success created heartbreak for another gymnast with Utah ties Saturday when Baskett scored a 9.925 to win the vault title at the North Central region championship.

Earlier, Utah State's Jasmine Minion scored a 9.9 on the vault. Just about the time she thought that score might hold up and earn her a trip to the NCAA Championships, Baskett threw the winning vault as one of the last competitors of the night.

"It was the best vault and the best score I've done," Minion said. "I kept telling myself, 'Big vault, big vault.' It shocked me."

If Minion's score had stood, she would have advanced to the NCAAs, since event winners competing as individuals advance.

Instead, Utah's gymnasts swept the event awards, preventing any of the individuals from advancing.

The Aggies had six gymnasts competing as individuals Saturday after they failed to qualify as a team for just the fifth time in 31 seasons. Heather Heinrich (37.650) and Nikki Felley (36.975) both competed in the all-around and suffered falls, finishing 19th and 21st, respectively.

"This is a good experience for the team, but I hope they learn we need to be here as a team," Utah State coach Ray Corn said.

SUU's Wheeler in

The top two all-arounders who aren't associated with a team advance to the NCAA Championships. Earning one of those bids was SUU's Elise Wheeler, who finished sixth in the all-around with a 39.225. Minnesota's Carmelina Carabajal also advanced, finishing fifth with a 39.275.

Wheeler scored a 9.85 on the vault, 9.775 on the uneven bars, 9.825 on the balance beam and a 9.775 on the floor.

Her way

Junior Nina Kim was determined to earn a spot in Saturday's meet even after Marsden said she couldn't compete because of a sprained ankle.

Kim won the battle of the wills, and competed as the fourth gymnast in the balance beam lineup and earned a 9.75. She had a hop on her landing and had trouble holding a balance pose on the heavily taped right ankle.

Before Saturday's competition, Kim had earned 9.825 or higher in the four previous meets on the beam.

She rolled her ankle eight days ago, the same ankle she injured earlier in the season which kept her out of two meets.

Originally Marsden wanted to keep her out of Saturday's meet so she could recover for nationals, but she recuperated faster than expected.

"I left the decision up to her," Marsden said. "She has earned that spot."

From point A to B

One of the reasons Marsden was excited about competing at Minnesota when the NCAA regional pairings were announced was it was an easy flight from Salt Lake City.

However, what should have been an easy travel day turned into a long saga, with the Utes' Thursday flight being canceled because of storms in Minneapolis.

Because of cancellations on American Airlines that displaced passengers, the Utes couldn't find a flight to Minneapolis to accommodate their 20-member traveling party.

Friday morning, the Utes had to fly to Billings, Mont., and take a connecting flight to Minneapolis. When the Utes got to Billings, they discovered there weren't enough seats for everyone.

Luck finally was on their side because another flight headed to Minneapolis was delayed, and the gymnasts not cleared on the original flight were booked on that one.

The Utes finally arrived in Minneapolis about 5 p.m., with 30 minutes' difference between the flights.

Event directors allowed the Utes to practice later than the rest of the other teams, but it still wasn't an ideal situation.