August Miller, Deseret News
While coach Greg Marsden felt his team "was on a bit of a roller-coaster ride" Friday night in a four-ring circus with BYU, Southern Utah and Texas Woman's University all performing at once with his Utah Ute gymnasts before 15,080 in the Huntsman Center, the end of the ride was reasonably pleasing.
Utah opened with its best halftime score of the season, 98.775, thanks to a best-in-two-years bars score of 49.525 with Gael Mackie, Daria Bijak and Kristina Baskett each posting 9.925s.
Then it had its lowest beam score of what's been an iffy beam season, 48.75.
Yet while the beam score was low, due to two falls, the Utes demonstrated again that they can be fairly oblivious to what's going on around them always a good trait in a nerve-wracking sport like gymnastics.
And No. 1-ranked Utah finished by tying its best floor score of the season to distance itself from the field at 196.85.
Southern Utah finished second with 194.325, BYU came in with 192.85 and the Pioneers totaled 191.425.
"I think this is a team that's pretty self-motivated and focused on the task that's at hand and don't seem to be too distracted, even by mistakes," said Marsden.
That was quite evident on beam. Following an Annie DiLuzio fall on beam, Baskett danced her way through to tie her career high, 9.90, with no strain at all on her face. And after Bijak fell, Nina Kim who was ill and did not practice Thursday followed it with a strong-enough 9.875.
On some past Ute teams, a fall on beam could lead to another and another, but this team seems to have a stronger mental outlook that should serve it well when it gets to the postseason.
"I really feel from them, there's no panic about (it)," Marsden said. "There were some great routines tonight, and there were some mistakes tonight, but I think they just kind of look at it like that, like, 'We're not having a problem that we're getting in some kind of pattern.'"
Baskett said the team's outlook after mistakes is that it gives the next person up the chance to be aggressive and go for her big skills, and, "You don't have to be cautious," she said.
"Were getting in our mental zone," she added, noting the team has worked hard on the mental aspect of its season.
Baskett came back from some errors made last week at Oregon State to inch closer to her career high in all-around. She scored 39.65 (career high 39.70) and made the whole night look like she hadn't a care in the world. "She's in a really good place this year," said Marsden. "It was easy for her."
Baskett reeled off 9.925s on vault and bars and finished with 9.90s on beam and floor.
"I wasn't too worried about Oregon (State last week) because I knew the mistakes were not normal mistakes," Baskett said. "I didn't have that in my mind at all. I've just been doing what I've been doing and felt calm and collected."
DiLuzio had to wait a long time before being able to do her first two events as in vault, a judge was mistaken about which Ute was vaulting following a lineup change that had been announced, and it took a long time to sort things out, and before beam, there was a fairly long pause as well. She vaulted to 9.825 but had an early wobble and then a fall on beam.
"It's kind of annoying," she admitted but said mental strength should be enough to pull through those things. "Once you see they're ready for you to go you can get refocused."
DiLuzio came back from those mistakes by tying her career best on floor, 9.95.
Friday's meet was the start of a tough stretch for the Utes, three meets in eight days, with the next two on the road. They are in Logan Monday to meet Utah State and then travel next Friday to Nebraska, site of the 2009 NCAA Championships.
While the gymnasts talk about how hard that is on them, said Marsden, "I think they're excited about it" because it means no real practices next week.
With a team that seems to have its collective head on really straight, Marsden said his hope for the week ahead is, "I just want us to go in and be tough. Just go do the job, and make the gymnastics look easy, be aggressive."
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