Ute senior Katie Kivisto's mother and sister are both 5 feet tall. Her father is about 5-foot-6.

"Yeah, I wasn't going to be tall. It just wasn't in the cards," said the 5-foot Kivisto, whose stature drew the, uh, short straw to be the poster child for the University of Utah's gymnastics team's "Short People Appreciation Night" Friday night.

Life-sized cardboard cutouts of Kivisto will be at Huntsman Center entrances for Friday night's meet at 7 against Minnesota, and anyone shorter than the cutout gets a free general admission ticket.

"I'm kind of curious to see what the poster will look like," said Kivisto

Last year, freshman Sarah Shire was Utah's first-ever cardboard short-person cutout, but she has since transferred to the University of Missouri, and that left it to Kivisto in her last year.

"I don't mind being short. I've been short all my life," Kivisto said. "I don't get embarrassed by it. I like being short. It's not like I'm going to be tall, so I don't spend my time worrying about it."

Coach Greg Marsden, though, disputes Kivisto's self-proclaimed 5-foot status. "She says 5-feet, but I'm not believing it. I think it's more like 4-11," he said playfully.

Next year, he'll have to find another poster person. Sophomore Stephanie Neff junior Beth Rizzo will be candidates at 5-0, and "Kristina's not a giant," Marsden said of Kristina Baskett, a junior checking in at 5-1. "In gymnastics, you always have another short person."

WELL-ROUNDED: Sophomore Daria Bijak finally competed all-around to count for the first time collegiately last Friday in Utah's win at Arizona State, scoring 39.15 despite stepping out of bounds on floor exercise for a .1 deduction. She had a 9.875 vault, 9.85 beam and 9.825 bars.

"Yeah, finally. I'm just happy that I finally am able to do all the stuff that I practiced the past three years," said Bijak, whose knee surgery in November of her freshman year following the October World Championships kept her out of two events. Then she sprained both ankles in the preseason of her second year, further slowing her progress.

"Last year I was always practicing, and, 'Well, OK, I can't do floor or vault now because of my knees and stuff.' I finally can show what I do in the gym," said the two-time world championships competitor and two-time German national all-around champion

"I was really excited because I didn't know it before, until Thursday night when Greg told us the lineup. So I was nervous and excited."

Doing mainly bars and beam last year was hard, but she said, "I was happy I was able to compete at least two events last year. I still had the competition feeling and everything."

"It's an important step for us in our future," said Marsden, "We really need her to develop into a strong all-around performer because she's very capable of that. We needed for her to get that last piece to the all-around puzzle going."

ANOTHER STEP: Utah's 196.70-195.625 win at Arizona State Friday was its best score of the season. "We weren't perfect," said Marsden, "but it was another step forward.

"I told the team before the meet started, the home meets are fun, but that's really where it all begins. Those meets at someone else's place on different equipment are the ones that best prepare us for the end of the year."

Utah still has meets at UCLA, Michigan and Florida, and regionals and nationals will be out of state.

"It was a huge step forward for us and important step for us to make," said Kivisto. "It starts us out in a better place (than last year, when the Utes struggled on the road).

"Everyone is pretty confident. There's a variety of people that could be in any lineup. It's very competitive — but everyone still gets along," Kivisto said, noting everyone has a common goal so, "We're not pitted against each other. It's a positive thing."

Marsden agreed. "There was just a good feeling, everybody was happy, everybody felt like they did a good job. It was a good trip — travel, weather, we had fun together at meals."

That was a switch. "We just had people not wanting to sit at the same table last year," Marsden said.

E-mail: lham@desnews.com