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Utah Utes gymnastics: Baskett is best in the West

Published: Sunday, April 5 2009 1:02 a.m. MDT

SEATTLE — When the Utah gymnastics team traveled to Seattle to face the Washington Huskies in February 2008, Kristina Baskett's parents figured it was their last chance to see their daughter compete in front of a hometown crowd.

"We thought that would be her last time ever competing in Seattle in front of her friends, her coaches amd everything that she did for 15 or 16 years prior to this," Baskett's father Randy said.

Baskett shone in what she thought was her final meet in Seattle, but Saturday at the NCAA West Regional, she gave an encore worthy of the NCAA champion she hopes to become later this month, winning two events and the all-around with a 39.650.

Baskett grew up in Normandy Park, Washington, a 20-minute drive from the University of Washington. She did her first cartwheels at Tumbletown, a nearby gymnastics school. She won her first national title representing Seattle's Puget Sound Gymnastics. As an elite gymnast, Baskett was ranked in the top 20 in the country as a teenager before being recruited by Utah coach Greg Marsden.

It was a solitary existence. Baskett was one of the only elite gymnasts in the state and her talent was virtually unknown at school, where she arrived late and left early to attend practices. But she never gave up.

"She never wanted to quit," recalled Jean Baskett, Kristina's mom, as she watched her daughter warm up on floor at Saturday's NCAA West Regional at the University of Washington. "There were some times when she struggled a little bit — you always have your ups and downs, you know, got frustrated sometimes. I always said, 'Well, do you want to take a day off?' 'Oh, no, no, I've got to go to practice.' She's always worked hard."

The hard work paid off at Utah. Regardless of whether Baskett gets the NCAA title Utah has coveted for the past three years, she'll be remembered as one of the greats in Utah's storied gymnastics history.

"It's kind of like a fairy-tale ending for her," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "She always competes well when she comes back here."

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