Utah Utes gymnastics: Tense tenth Utes stumble, still hold off the Bruins
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
The Ute gymnasts' season opener was going quite well until the last two competitors and an exhibition performer had difficulties that coach Greg Marsden said he'd never expected.
Seniors Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim were both vying for the all-around title Friday night at the Huntsman Center when each suffered falls as the last two Utes up on the final event, floor exercise. Then junior Beth Rizzo, working exhibition on floor, apparently got too anxious, which she never does, Marsden said, and wound up badly spraining an ankle.
Second-ranked Utah still hung on to beat fourth-ranked and very young UCLA, 196.175-196.075 in front of 12,951. Both scores may be among the country's highest so far.
Utah's next meet is Jan. 19 at top-ranked Georgia, which beat West Virginia Friday night, 195.425-194.075.
Florida reached 196.50 in its season opener, but among the other highly ranked teams in their first meets, Alabama had 195.675, Stanford 195.60 and LSU 194.70.
"I expected some mistakes," Marsden said, but he thought the team was home free when Kim began her floor exercise after scoring a career-best 9.95 on vault plus 9.85 on bars and 9.875 on beam. She had two falls on floor. Baskett, the team's best floorworker, had scored 9.925, 9.925 and 9.80 in her first three events but touched her hands to the mat on her final floor skill, apparently to avoid going out of bounds, Marsden said. It would have cost less to go out of bounds as the hand-touch counts as a fall.5 deduction, instead of .1 or maybe .2.
"I chalk it up to they both just made mental mistakes," Marsden said. "I didn't get the feeling either wasn't ready."
Speaking of the meet in general, Baskett said, "Ninety percent of it was really good, and then yeah.
"We were throwing big stuff on floor," she added, saying many of the gymnasts were already doing the routines they'll do at year's end. "There were some misjudgments" that will get better with more repetition. "A little rusty, I guess, in throwing big skills." She noted there may have been some endurance issues that will get better with time, too.
"It was still a lot of fun," said Kim.
Rizzo had troubles with her opening double back and then landed her closing double back hard.
Marsden was quite surprised to see that because she's never shown difficulties there. "She's the one person I would have never dreamed that," he said, echoing the same thing about Baskett and Kim on floor.
Rizzo, who completed her first meet as a scholarship athlete Friday, will likely be out for at least the next week or more the ankle will be re-evaluated today. "Every loss is pretty significant for us now," said Marsden, who started fall training with only 11 athletes because Stephanie Neff had to retire due to back problems. Then Kyndal Robarts tore the labrum in her right shoulder recently and is out for maybe the first month of the season. Rizzo's loss leaves him 10 competitors.
With Kim and Baskett falling, junior Jamie Deetscreek won the all-around in her first-ever collegiate try at it, scoring 39.10 to Baskett's 39.025.
She did it with a strong 9.825 in her first-ever collegiate floor routine. "I was nervous, but I was really excited," she said about the floor, adding that's the event on which she has worked hardest.
"Jamie was incredible," said Marsden, noting that two years ago, she only did one event, and it seemed she'd never compete in more than two. He was extra happy because, "We really needed her."
Though she downplayed her win because Baskett and Kim had falls, Marsden said he can see the victory helping Deetscreek in the future. "What Jamie really needs more than anything is confidence," he said. Deetscreek also posted a career-best 9.875 vault as the Utes opened their 34th season with a strong 49.425 event score, best of the night.
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