Seniors lead Utes over the Gators in gymnastics showdown
How appropriate in a meet Utah's gymnastics team had identified as a must-win, statement performance that seniors Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim stood out from the rest.
Utah's seniors, competing for the last time at home, left a lasting impression on the home fans in leading the No. 2 Utes (11-1) to a 197.075-196.0 win over the No. 4 Gators (6-4) in front of 15,082 at the Hunstman Center Friday.
Baskett and Kim finished first and second, respectively, in the all-around, bringing the fifth-largest crowd in school history to its feet after they finished their floor routines.
"That is a feeling I am going to remember for the rest of my life," Kim said.
Baskett won the all-around with a 39.675, which tied her season high, while Kim set a career high with her 39.6. Baskett also won the uneven bars (9.975) and floor (9.925). Kim won the beam (9.95).
Normally seniors have a hard time competing their best in their final home meets because of the emotions, but both Baskett and Kim showed the mental strength that have made them special gymnasts by handling the pressure well.
"We figured they already love us, how much do we have to mess up for them to hate us," Kim joked afterward of the Utah fans.
Baskett's big night gives her 26 wins for the season. She needs six more between next week's season finale at BYU, the regionals and nationals to tie Theresa Kulikowski for the fifth-most wins in a season.
Afterward, Baskett and Kim reminisced about their recruiting trip five years ago and how Kim was curious why Baskett already had committed to the Utes.
"I told her she'd see," Baskett said. "I'm so glad I made that call."
In part because of their solid performances, the anticipated thriller with Florida never really materialized as Utah opened the night with a 49.375 while a short-handed Florida team struggled on the uneven bars and scored a 48.85.
Florida came into the meet without the availability of four gymnasts because of injury, including All-American Corey Hartung. The Gators suffered another serious injury when Amanda Castillo hurt her ankle during her floor routine and couldn't compete on the balance beam.
The Utes weren't great, but they weren't bad either and improved enough through the meet to comfortably dispatch the Gators.
"I got a feeling after vault everybody was trying too hard to be perfect and hit every handstand," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "When you do that, more often than not you make mistakes."
After Marsden gathered the Utes to tell them to loosen up, the Utes finished off the night with a 49.3 on the beam and a 49.4 on the floor, both scores near the top of their season bests.
"I don't know about Florida, but for us to pull it off when we weren't at our best show our mental toughness," Kim said.
In brief » The Utes break their three-meet, regular-season losing streak to the Gators with the win and extend their home-meet winning streak to 14 in a row.
Key stat » Nina Kim scores a career-high 39.6 in the all-around.
Key moment » Annie DiLuzio ties her career high on the vault, scoring a 9.95 a week after she did so for the first time.
1. 15,447 Utah vs. BYU, March 28, 2008
2. 15,238 Utah vs. CS-Fullerton, Feb. 11, 1991
3. 15,168 Utah vs. Boise St./Washington, March 6, 1993
4. 15,162 Alabama vs. Florida, Jan. 20, 2006
5. 15,082 Utah vs. Florida, March 13, 2009
Vault » Annie DiLuzio (Utah)
Uneven Bars » Kristina Baskett 9.975 (Utah)
Balance Beam » Nina Kim 9.95 (Utah)
Floor » Kristina Baskett (9.925) Utah
All-Around » Kristina Baskett 39.675 (Utah)
2009 » 13,861
1993 » 13,164
2008 » 12,771
2006 » 12,747
1992 » 12,557