Utah gymnastics: In a league of their own
In the four-event circus that quad gymnastics are known to be, one thing stood out early Friday -- the top-ranked Utah Utes are competing at their own level.
The Utes, who took over the No. 1 ranking this week for the first time since the 2005 season, looked every bit like the nation's premier team as it easily won the meet with a 196.85 in front of 15,080 at the Huntsman Center. Southern Utah was second with a 194.325 followed by BYU (192.85) and Texas Woman's University (191.425).
Utah's gymnasts didn't allow scoring mixups, the mistakes of the teams around them or the chaotic atmosphere to faze them as they cranked out one solid routine after another one to tie their second-highest effort of the season.
"We go into every week trying to get a little better than the week before," senior Nina Kim said. "We've been able to do that."
Rankings are based on teams' averages, so the Utes (6-1) don't want to put too much emphasis on holding the No. 1 spot since they can't control what happens at competitions around the country.
But Friday's meet did nothing to take away from the idea the Utes are the best team in the land this season.
Utah lost to four-time defending champion Georgia earlier in this season, but while the Gym Dogs have been up and down in their scores, the Utes have been consistently strong.
Even mistakes showed how good the Utes are becoming as a team. For example, freshman Stephanie McAllister had a break in her uneven bars routine as the leadoff scoring a 9.675. It didn't matter, as the rest of the lineup delivered some of their best routines, scoring a 49.525. It was the highest score the Utes have posted on the event since the 2007 season. It was also the kind of performance senior Kristina Baskett had in mind earlier this season when she said each gymnast was going to have to perform a little better than they had in the past to make up for the loss of 20-time All-American Ashley Postell. The Utes appear well on their way to taking care of that task.
"We've worked a lot on our mental strength this season and we're able to come back strong," Baskett said. "We're pretty good with that already, but we still need to work on it. We're not perfect yet, but we will be."
Knowing others can make up for miscues helps the rest of the gymnasts in the lineups with their own confidence, Baskett said.
"You feel like you can go out there and do the biggest, best routine you possibly can," she said. "You don't have to hold back and you can take a lot of risks and do big gymnastics."
The big gymnastics were particularly evident on the floor especially with Baskett (9.9) and DiLuzio (9.95) finishing the night with big tumbling performances.
The showing left coach Greg Marsden satisfied, even as he acknowledged the Utes still have work to do to correct little mistakes.
The Utes did have to count a fall on the balance beam, but the rest of the scores were all 9.825 or higher to lessen the sting of the error.
Utah » 196.85
Southern Utah » 194.325
Brigham Young » 192.85
Texas Woman's » 191.425
Vault » Kristina Baskett (Utah) 9.925
Uneven bars » Baskett, Gael Mackie (Utah), Daria Bijak (Utah) 9.925
Balance beam » Baskett 9.9
Floor » Annie DiLuzio (Utah) 9.95
All-around » Baskett 39.65
In brief » The Utes tie their second-highest score of the season to easily win Friday.
Key stat » Kristina Baskett scores two 9.9s and two 9.925s to win the all-around.