Utah Utes gymnastics: No. 1 Utes like view from top

By Linda Hamilton

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 3 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

The last time Utah's gymnastics team was ranked No. 1 in the NCAA, seniors Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim were still with their club teams in Washington and Texas.

But now they can add being on a top-ranked team to their resumes, as the Utes took over first this week with a 196.70 raw season average, ahead of No. 2 UCLA (196.48) and No. 3 Georgia and Arkansas (196.320).

It is the first time Utah has been ranked No. 1 since March 28, 2005. It spent eight weeks at the top that season, when the roster included Annabeth Eberle, Gritt Hofmann, Nicolle Ford and freshman Ashley Postell.

"Yup, that was really nice," said Kim about finding out Monday that Utah is No. 1 following its highest score of the season, 197.05, at Oregon State on Friday night.

"It is just rankings, and just during the season," Kim added. "Postseason is really what we're looking for.

"But to see the results on paper, and seeing our hard work in practices — we've been building and getting better and better and stronger ever since the first meet — so it was nice to see."

"That's pretty cool," agreed junior Annie DiLuzio, coming off her best meet of the season, which included an upgraded vault that scored a 9.925, which tied her career high and helped the Utes regain the No. 1 ranking on that event. DiLuzio also posted a 9.825 on beam and a 9.875 on floor.

"Right now isn't really what we're concerned with," DiLuzio said. "I think it's pretty cool to say we're ranked No. 1, but ultimately it comes down to nationals, and everybody knows that, so as long as we stay in the top little bunch, it feels good.

"We've been working really hard, and everybody is coming in here and giving it 100 percent, and we're seeing the outcomes of it. We're working hard in the gym, and it's paying off, which is nice."

Next Monday will be the final time this season that the rankings are determined by raw season average. On Feb. 16, the ranking criteria will be Regional Qualifying Score (RQS), an average of a team's six best scores, of which three must come from away meets.

MYSTERY SCORE: The Utes still don't know why Kim's beam score was lowered from an announced 9.775 to an after-meet 9.65 Friday at Oregon State. Jamie Deetscreek's score was also lowered, but she apparently had noticed the judges' scores didn't add up correctly, so that wasn't a problem.

Kim's lowered score was a career first for him, said Greg Marsden, in his 34th year as the Utes' coach, but he isn't inclined to investigate further.

"It just would have been interesting to know why," he said. "I guess I could call up and see if the Oregon coaches could track it down for me, but I don't know."

Marsden learned of the changes after the meet was well over, after he had signed the scoresheet, without perusing each score.

"If we'd known we probably would have inquired and tried to figure out where they were taking deductions, and if a mistake had been made somewhere in the start value," he said, but now it's simply water under the bridge.

CRACKING THE LINEUP: Sophomore Kyndal Robarts did well in her first beam of the season, opening Utah's lineup with a 9.875. "Getting Kyndal back in the lineup was good, and she was unbelievable leading us off," said Marsden.

"It was an awesome routine to see," added Kim. "Glad to have her back in the lineup."

But Robarts and junior Daria Bijak haven't been able to crack the vault roster. Robarts missed the early season after a torn labrum in her right shoulder, and the team is going easy on Bijak, who competed for Germany in the 2008 Olympics.

"The people that are in there are doing such a good job they have to demonstrate they can replace somebody and do better than (those people are) doing," said Marsden. "Right now everybody who's in the lineup is doing a nice job. "

Also out of work has been sophomore Jacq Johnson, who is ready again after a sore knee in the preseason but hasn't been able to make any of the lineup. She may get a chance to perform Monday at Utah State, Marsden said.

Utah hosts BYU, Southern Utah and Texas Woman's University in the Huntsman Center Friday at 7 for Daddy-Daughter night. Free admittance coupons are available at UtahUtes.com (click the Daddy-Daughterpromotion button).

RIZZO UPDATE: Junior Beth Rizzo is likely about halfway through her rehab for torn ankle ligaments. Marsden said trainer Tom Iriye expect Rizzo's injury to take a full six weeks to heal, and it's about halfway to that now. Rizzo hasn't done any gymnastics yet, though Marsden said they're thinking of letting her do a few things on the trampoline this week.

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