Halfway through Friday night's meet in the Huntsman Center against fifth-ranked Florida, Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden told his team to relax. He could see they were trying to be too perfect and were thinking too much.
The Red Rocks did just as they were told and came back strong on beam and floor to top the 197 mark for a third time this season, downing the injury-plagued Gators 197.075-196.00 to wind up the home portion of the Utes' 2009 season.
Marsden had taken the precaution of giving his two seniors, Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim, the same advice the day before, and the two of them followed it to the letter and avoided the pitfalls that many face on their Senior Nights.
Baskett scored her third 39.675 of the season, and Kim had her career-high all-around score of 39.60 in front of their parents and a crowd of 15,082, the biggest crowd of the season — by two — for an outstanding home finale to their careers. It was the fourth-largest crowd in Utah history and fifth-largest in NCAA history. It brought Utah's NCAA-record 2009 season average to 13,861.
The crowd included Kim's best friend, 2008 Beijing Olympics all-around gold medalist Nastia Liukin, who had been planning the visit for Kim's Senior Night since last summer but didn't tell her friend until two days earlier that she would be there.
"It's way more emotional than a normal meet," said Baskett, "and just finishing the floor routine was pretty emotional because that was like our last routine and everything.
"But it was an exciting night, so it's hard to kind of be sad about it. It was real fun, and we'll remember that moment forever."3 comments on this story
"Forever and ever," added Kim, casting a happy glance at Liukin.
Kim said she'd gone into Friday's meet planning to give the audience her best. "But during the meet, I was so relaxed and having so much fun with the girls. Like Kris said, after our last floor routine, I don't think I've ever felt that or will ever feel that again, but I'll remember it forever. It was amazing.
"Of course there's nerves," Kim added, breaking into laughter, "but I know that everybody's going to love us. They've loved us all the way here, so how much do we have to mess up for them to hate us?"
Baskett tied her career high on bars with a 9.975, and she tied her career high on floor with a 9.925. Kim had a career-best beam of 9.95 to go with her 9.90 on her last home floor routine.