Ever since the Utes' second meet of the season, if senior Ashley Postell didn't win the event, most likely junior Kristina Baskett did, and if Postell did win, most of the time, Baskett was No. 2.
Postell is having a record-setting season, and Baskett is right there in her footsteps.
In Utah's last two meets which seem like ages ago now because they came in the same weekend Baskett won one event outright at UCLA, tied with Postell for the bars title against Southern Utah and Utah State, and took second to Postell the other five times she was on the floor. She's had scores of 9.975, 9.90 and three 9.925s.
"I've finally got all my upgrades in. I've been kind of antsy to do that," said Baskett, who now only needs to fine-tune her routines. She is tied for seventh in the NCAA all-around rankings and is third on bars and ninth in vaulting.
Baskett and the No. 2-ranked Utes (9-0) open their most important stretch of the season tonight when seventh-ranked Oregon State (9-2) visits the Huntsman Center at 7. OSU had won nine straight meets before losing at UCLA last week because it had some falls on beam. Without those, it likely would have had a 10th straight win.
Over the next three weeks, Utah also faces No. 3 Florida March 14 and No. 4 Michigan March 22.
Coach Greg Marsden is wondering how his team will perform following the week layoff. He says he's seen evidence that the Utes at least in practice haven't lost a step.
"They were just good in practice," he said. "It appeared they were able to flip the switch back on. In some ways, it almost seemed like they were a little rested and, from a practice standpoint, maybe even a little better."
But, he said, "The proof will be in the performance. I've been pleased with practice, but we need to see that sharpness in competition."
It should be the most exciting time of the regular season.
"I think we're looking forward to that opportunity," Marsden said. "I think they feel good about where we are and what we're doing, and they're looking forward to how we match up with those teams."
The layoff helped several injured and ill athletes. Stephanie Neff (Achilles, back) is doing well enough that Marsden may use her in exhibition on floor tonight. Annie DiLuzio had an MRI Wednesday, and it showed "not even the hint" of the budding stress fracture the Utes have feared and no structural problem at all. There's still pain in her shin, but, "We can relax a little bit," Marsden said.
Kyndal Robarts' MCL (knee) sprain is better, and she's back training, though she was tentative on floor this week and is probably a week away from a return.
Daria Bijak (flu) was better Thursday, and Nina Kim (foot sprain, flu) is progressing, though conditioning will be a factor in whether either can compete tonight. Jacq Johnson (broken metatarsal) is back to training a bit on soft surfaces and doing bar routines without dismounts.
By next week, at least, Marsden will have some choices. Meanwhile, Baskett is full speed.
"My body feels strong, and I'm pretty calm, I think just because this year we're more relaxed and having fun with it (than in 2007). I know I do better when I'm having fun," she said. "I have a strong team behind me, and I can go for my upgrades and not hold back at all."
She is also benefiting from Postell's terrific year. "Ashley is a stud," Baskett said. "It's good for me to get to see that and kind of work together. I can learn from her, and I'm trying to take advantage of that."She's handling it in a really good way but I think our whole team is, just relaxing and having fun, not trying to make things happen."
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