When Ute gymnast Jamie Deetscreek got into trouble on the first skill in her uneven bars routine last Saturday at the North Central regional, she had to use all her strength to stay on the bars and get back to the right place and then hope she'd have enough stamina to finish the routine.
Kristina Baskett has made the mistake she made on bars at the regionals before, in practice, and it's just plain annoying that it comes on her easiest skill because she rushed through it and then had to improvise and make her half turn underneath the bar instead of in the handstand pirouette where she usually gets going in the proper direction.
Ashley Postell banged a heel on the low bar going into her dismount, so she had to muscle her way into the last element rather than use the bar tap to give her momentum. She did it so well she won the regional vault title, scoring 9.85.
When Daria Bijak botched her Shaposhnikova, a kip cast with a half turn that starts her bars routine, she didn't know what to do. What she did do she's never done before and it actually added another "D" element to her routine.
"It was the kip-cast half. I didn't go over the fence, and I fell back and I did another half, so it was like a kip-cast full, which is another value element. So I had another D in there, which is like, 'Oh, cool, just got more bonus,"' Bijak said at practice this week.
It was the strangest bar set of the season for the Utes. These miscues happen rarely, and to have four of them in one meet "was really a surprise," said Ute bars coach Jeff Graba. "They'll struggle, but they struggle to hit a handstand or catch a release move close. It's not that they have to make up a new element or add an element" like several did on Saturday.
And guess what rotation Utah starts on again April 24 when it opens in the evening session at the 2008 NCAA championships at Georgia?
But Saturday's foibles may have made Utah stronger, so Graba doesn't anticipate duplicating last Saturday's adventures, even if at nationals they will again start the meet with the bye before bars, meaning they'll cool down again after warming up. But, for one thing, they probably won't have two days of airline problems getting to the meet and have to hurry through a late equipment orientation session like they did in Minneapolis. And the bars at Georgia will be anchored to the floor, not like the loose and bouncy bars held down by water bottles at Minnesota.
Said Graba, "I don't think we'll end up ever with a harder situation than we went through (last Saturday), where they're cold, they don't like the water-bottle bars, they haven't practiced for a week and were jet-lagged."
And the way they were able to reinvent themselves on the fly actually may have added to the Utes' confidence. They scored 49.10 even with all the problems.
Still, bars is the most likely of the four events for gymnasts to have to ad lib routines if an element doesn't go as planned. It's not a comfortable feeling.
"It kind of makes your mind-set a little different after you just messed up the first thing in your routine," said Deetscreek. "There's not really that much time to think about it. Once you mess up, everything is a little overwhelming."
Had it been practice, she'd have fallen, "but I knew that if I fell over, that would be like a huge mistake, so I was just like, 'Don't fall, don't fall,' telling myself. I knew I couldn't give up because you just don't do that in a meet."
Graba said he was amazed at her strength in righting herself and completing the routine for a 9.70.
"Your instincts take over," said Baskett. "Once I realized I wasn't going to make it over, I instinctively turned back and was able to do a switch-kip underneath the bar. I just had the dismount left. I'll be able to fix it by switching my timing and being more patient.'
Bijak had the most adventurous experience, never having been in that exact situation and having no backup plan for that particular error.
"You have to think so fast or actually, you don't have time to think," she said. " I seriously, I didn't think at all. It just came to me. I just did it, and it worked out."
When near-disaster strikes, "You panic," Bijak admitted. "You're trying to think, 'OK, what am I going to do now?' But everything is so fast you're like, you can't. You have no time to figure out."It's good if you make those mistakes in practice so you kind of know how to deal with it. But I think I don't know I think I impressed myself," she said.