Los Angeles » Junior Kyndal Robarts proved early in her career she was capable of being the Utes' leadoff gymnast; now she's out to prove she can be the Utes' closer.
Robarts anchored both the vault and balance beam rotations for the second-ranked Utes in Saturday's 196.6-195.125 loss to No. 5 UCLA, scoring 9.85s in both routines. She also had a 9.725 on the floor and a 9.725 on the uneven bars to earn a team-high 39.15 in the all-around.
Saturday was the first time she has competed in the all-around.
"She proved she deserved the position we put her in," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "She is going to be somebody who is going to be calm and collected in tough situations."
Robarts' bars routine was her first since her freshman year. She never competed on the event in 2009 because of shoulder injuries.
"It feels great now," she said. "I was a little nervous at first but it was nice to be in there."
Robarts is accustomed to leading off events but said she likes finishing rotations, too.
"I'm glad they feel like I should be in there," she said. "It means a lot to me."
So, too, did the team's loss.
"We're disappointed; it's not what we wanted," she said. "Hopefully this will be a spark for us and get that fire going."
Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim , Utah's senior leaders on the 2009 team, gave the Utes a pep talk before Saturday's meet.
Kim gave her motivational speech in the locker room while Baskett, who is performing in the show Le Reve at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, gave her's by phone.
Kim watched the meet along with her friend Nastia Liukin , the reigning Olympic all-around champion who trained at the same gym as Kim.
Best in the West
Saturday's meet featured two of the most successful teams in collegiate gymnastics history. Utah has won nine NCAA championships, with the last coming in 1995. UCLA has won five, with the last being the 2004 title.
"We have a lot of respect for their program," UCLA coach Valorie Kondos Field said. "That is what makes this rivalry fun, that it is a good rivalry and we wanted to play off that."
Freshman Meg Whitley was scheduled to debut on the vault but was pulled from the lineup after injuring her ankle earlier this week. She was replaced in the lineup by Gael Mackie, who scored a 9.65. ... Junior Jacquelyn Johnson didn't compete because of a strained adductor muscle. ... UCLA legend John Wooden was one of the fans in attendance. ... The Utes are 9-2 against the Bruins in Los Angeles in the regular season.
Back to work
Senior Beth Rizzo , who suffered a season-ending ankle injury against UCLA last year during an exhibition floor routine, competed on the vault Saturday.
She earned a 9.675 for the Utes in what was just her fourth vault routine. She didn't compete on the vault as a freshman.