Utah Utes gymnastics: Baskett places second in all-around chase

Published: Friday, April 17 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

LINCOLN, Neb. — For the fourth straight year, a Ute has taken second place in the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships all-around competition.

For three years in a row, it was Ashley Postell.

This time it was senior Kristina Baskett, who scored 9.95 on vault as Utah's final competitor of the team preliminaries on Thursday night at the University of Nebraska to total 39.60 and place second behind Georgia's three-time champion Courtney Kupets (39.80).

Baskett, so emotional after the Utes barely slid into tonight's Super Six team championship by virtue of winning a tiebreaker over UCLA for third place in the evening session Thursday, had little thought about her own success.

"I don't care right now," she said, adding she was emotionally exhausted.

"Well, we're used to that," coach Greg Marsden said about the second place. The team has been second to Georgia the last three years, is ranked and seeded second this season and Baskett was the No. 2-ranked all-arounder behind Kupets for the season.

"Right now, second looks pretty good," he added with a relieved laugh after the way the team barely survived the cut for tonight's team finals.

Utah junior Daria Bijak and senior Nina Kim were among several athletes tied for 11th in the all-around at 39.40.

Kupets - who missed last season's championships with a torn Achilles - was a little testy the last few weeks, said Georgia coach Suzanne Yoculan, noting that often means she will do well.

Kupets' older sister, Ashley, came to Lincoln from where she's living in Las Vegas and surprised Courtney Thursday. "Ashley's surprise today put that big smile back on her face," said Yoculan.

Kupets knocked out a 10 on balance beam, her final routine, to ensure her win.

Marsden said no one was going to catch her.

"She just looks like an angel with wings when she comes down on her dismounts," Yoculan said of Kupets. "It's just a joy to watch someone perform gymnastics like that, just soft and graceful and effortless. That's how I saw her tonight."

EVENT FINALISTS: Southern Utah junior Elise Wheeler finished tied for 17th in the all-around at 39.325, and she tied for first place in the evening session on beam with Utah's Baskett and six others, all with 9.90s, to put them in Saturday night's event finals.

Baskett qualified for three event finals, tied for second on vault at 9.95 and tied for first on bars with 9.90.

Ute junior Daria Bijak was the night session's highest scorer on floor with 9.90, so she'll be working Saturday as well.

Wheeler was also fourth in the session on bars (9.875) to make that event finals and is now an All-American on each of those events, the first in SUU history.

"This is an incredible night for Elise and an incredible night for our program," said coach Scott Bauman.

"I don't think excited explains my feelings," Wheeler said. "I'm pretty overwhelmed with the whole thing. "

SHIRE QUALIFIES: Sarah Shire, who was on the Ute team the last two years and then transferred over the summer to Missouri, in her hometown, scored 9.90 on vault in Thursday's afternoon session. That qualified her for Saturday's event finals.

She scored 39.20 all-around while rotating with four-time defending champion Georgia.

"Probably a season-low," Shire said, which it was.

"I came out here and hit four events and was lucky enough to make it to vault finals, so that's great," said Shire.

She would not say which team she wanted to win the evening session, avoiding talking about Utah. "No comment. I'm not putting that foot in my mouth," she said. She called her transfer back home "the best thing that ever happened to me. This is where I'm from, this is where I belong, and I've never felt more part of a team in my life," Shire said.

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