Utah Utes gymnastics: Freshman gymnast handles pressure

Published: Saturday, Jan. 24 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

Sometimes consistency proves to be more important than the big score — even in gymnastics. So was the case Friday night as the third-ranked Utes defeated No. 25 Washington 196.85-193.45.
Utah's victory was not the prettiest, but instead consistent over three events. The exception was the beam.
Utah began the night on vault and notched a 49.25 score in the event. It was not the best score for the Utes on the season, but Utah head coach Greg Marsden said it was "probably the best vault set we've done — whether it scored the best or not."
Marsden was particularly pleased with his team's sticks in the event and considered the strong landings an added bonus. The coach had not been able to dedicate time to the landings because most of the focus had been on gaining amplitude so tougher skills could be added. Kristina Baskett added a new skill for the meet, throwing in a one-and-a-half twist to cap the vault off with a meet-high 9.925.
"All we really did was talk about trying to do a big vault tonight," Marsden said. "We really haven't had a chance to work on landings. It was more of a mental approach tonight."
Only one of the six vaulters had a noticeable step in her landing. The irony was Utah's most consistent three-event performer on the night, Stephanie McAllister, was the one who took the step. But the freshman did perfect her amplitude.
"I felt like I was aggressive," said McAllister. "My goal was to get a big vault and then work on my landing. Today I did the big vault and now I'll focus on the landing."
McAllister was equal to what the Utes were Friday — consistent in three events. She followed up her 9.725 in vault with career bests of 9.825 on the bars and 9.85 on the floor. The bars' score brought a bit of relief and a bit of excitement to the freshman, who fell in the event to lead off the Utes' meet earlier this week at Georgia.
"I was pretty nervous (at Georgia). I don't know if it was just being nervous, being away for the first time, the first time starting, or a combination of things," McAllister said.
"She's probably going to be in that lead-off spot so it's important for her to get comfortable with that," Marsden said. "I put her in a real difficult situation in Georgia. Here you start bars, but you've already competed in an event. At Georgia it's our first event so she's first up."
Though McAllister is only a freshman, her consistency has been a pleasant surprise for the Utah coaches. She competed in three events at Georgia before doing the same Friday night.
"As a freshman you never know how they are going to transition in, and she's handling things exceptionally well," Marsden said. "She's really ready on all four events and competing three events for us."
The missing event is the beam, which McAllister admits she has to become more consistent with. Her favorite event is the bars, where she even has a skill named after her, but the floor is a close second because she loves to perform in the Huntsman Center.

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