PROVO — Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden said he was really worried about Friday night's meet at No. 52-ranked BYU, considering his second-ranked Utes were coming off a big, emotional night last Friday.
The worry turned out to be mostly unnecessary as Utah put up some of its best numbers of the season in the last regular-season meet for the Utes and last meet of the season for the Cougars, who will not advance to the postseason.
Utah will easily advance to the postseason, and its NCAA regional assignment will be announced about noon on Monday.
And that will only put icing on the cake after Friday night's 197.80-192.725 win in the Marriott Center.
It was Utah's best score of the season by .275 point, and it was accomplished with several career highs including Daria Bijak's big night that included a career-best 39.525 in the all-around and — finally — a big score to match all the difficulty she performs on floor. She hit her double tuck-front tuck first-pass combination perfectly, completed her upgraded second pass very well and came out with a 9.925 that was her career high by .25.
Bijak also tied her career high with 9.90 on vault and scored 9.825 on beam with a major wobble, meaning she did pretty well on the rest of that routine.
"I had fun," said Bijak, who was third in the all-around to senior Kristina Baskett's 39.65 and senior Nina Kim's 39.575.
"I hope I can do floor like that all the time," Bijak said, noting that coach Greg Marsden gave her the kind of advice this week that he's been preaching to the team for weeks — stop trying to be perfect in meets. Be perfect in practices, and then let it flow in the meet.
"I get caught up in myself," Bijak said of her tendency to press to be perfect, but Friday that seemed to melt away. "I just let it go and do what my body does every day.
"This meet gave me a lot of confidence," she said.
Marsden said Bijak will still try to get her knees together when she does the double tuck. She spreads them to get the power to do the second front tuck, but if she can put them together, it will score even better.
Floor can hardly go better for the Utes than it did Friday, Marsden said. Bijak's 9.925 was followed, after Kim's 9.875, by a career-best 9.95 from Baskett and career-best 9.975 from Annie DiLuzio, who did her triple twist instead of the double Arabian. Baskett did her double Arabian to perfection, as well as most of the rest of her routine.
DiLuzio saw a 10.0 from one judge. Kim had a career-high 9.95 vault, and Kyndal Robarts posted a career-high 9.90 beam to lead off Utah's set.
"Tonight we were a little more relaxed," said Baskett, happy because it hasn't always been that way when she has visited BYU. "It will be a good note to start next week's practice and know Greg Marsden is happy," she added.
The big floor (49.60, easily Utah's best of the season) followed the Utes' best first-half score of the season, 98.925, thanks to 49.55 on vault despite some unstuck landings. And, oddly, Utah's first event, bars, started with some bent arms and un-vertical handstands that can obviously be corrected.1 comment on this story
"We started out just a little tight and finished a little tight," Marsden said.
Still, the rest of the meet was so strong, Utah hardly missed the .2-.3 it gave away in three events — and the Utes are well aware they'd have been in the 198s without those errors.
Now Marsden worries about keeping the focus for the next two weeks until the regional competition and says his challenge will be to keep the team from feeling too satisfied with this final meet. He allows, though, that this 2009 team "is a pretty mature group" that does not seem to let any adversity snowball.
"We accomplished what we set out to do," he said, and he was pleased that it happened on the road, where the Utes pretty much had to "generate our own energy."