U.'s Baskett claims bars title tie

Published: Sunday, April 23 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

Utah's Ashley Postell performs her beam routine in the NCAA individual event finals at Corvallis, Ore.

Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Ute freshman Kristina Baskett was the third competitor on uneven bars Saturday night at the 2006 NCAA gymnastics individual-event championships — a position that rarely produces a championship for someone who is relatively unknown.

But Baskett's score of 9.85 held up through eight more competitors, including two better-known teammates, and the youngster from the Seattle area wound up tying Georgia Olympian Courtney Kupets — who went first but is a big name — for the bars championship.

She is Utah's first individual champion since Theresa Kulikowski won on balance beam in 2001.

"Oh, my gosh. I can't believe it, really," said Baskett, whose parents and many more friends and family were in the audience at Gill Coliseum on the Oregon State University campus. "I just can't believe it.

"I came in with no expectations of making event finals, I didn't want to put the extra pressure on in the first day (Thursday team preliminaries, when gymnasts qualify for event finals).

"I'm ecstatic. I was just having fun. I had nothing to lose so I just gave it all I had, and it worked out."

Tying Kupets is "amazing, I can't believe it," she said.

Baskett's never been consistent on bars, often trying to do too much when she was younger, but she produced a 9.875 Friday to help the Utes finish second to Georgia in the team championships and scored 9.90 in team prelims to qualify for Saturday.

"A pleasant surprise," said coach Greg Marsden. "I hope it really helps her confidence knowing she can compete with anybody."

Teammates Ashley Postell (fifth, 9.7875) and Nicolle Ford (sixth, 9.775) said they were both tired from the long competition.

Postell, who qualified for all four event finals, tried warming up her floor routine but decided her shins were too sore and she wasn't sure if she could complete her difficult double-Arabian, so she pulled out of the floor finals.

"I felt bad for her," Marsden said of Postell, one of the country's top gymnasts. He said she was up till 1 a.m. Saturday getting treatments on her sore body, hoping to be ready to do a rare third straight night of all-around competition.

Kupets also did another all-around, as did LSU's April Burkholder.

Alabama's Ashley Miles won her third vault championship (9.9375), Kupets won beam (9.9125) in addition to tying with Baskett, and UCLA's Kat Richardson (9.95) took the floor championship with Kupets second.

Postell, the 2002 world beam champion, finished seventh on beam (9.80) Saturday, and she was eighth (9.7813) in vault, right behind Ford's 9.7875.

Ford is terrified of vault and false-started on her second vault, which she hasn't trained for in two years.

Fifth-year senior Gritt Hofmann was 10th at 9.7250, in her very last event.

"I hadn't any expectations. My second vault is only a 9.90 start value, and I can't compete with anyone else," she said.

But she was grateful to have made event finals in something. "I kind of made up for not being in floor finals, at least I got another final," she said.

She unexpectedly got another chance this year from the NCAA after thinking she'd completed her eligibility last year, and she came back stronger and more determined.

"It might have been to do with age a little bit. As you get older, you see things, like, 'Oh, it's going to be an end,' and you want to be on your best. When you're younger, you don't realize it that much, but when I went through the whole senior thing already and though that was it and now I get another chance, now make it even better than last year. That's what helps."

Now that her career is definitely done, Hofmann said, "I'm definitely sad, but it was a pretty great year, a great five years, and it's been so much fun. I'm thankful to be on that team and have that experience."

These championships, "Couldn't have been better. I know Georgia (team champion) was a strong team, and I wasn't thinking we could beat them. It was great we made it to second."


E-mail: lham@desnews.com

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