Ute senior gymnast Kristina Baskett makes the floor exercise look so effortless, smiling her way through her routines, looking like she could fly. But it's also been a a problem for her at times.
"It doesn't seem that hard when you watch it, but I think floor routines are some of the hardest things I've ever done," Baskett said this week. "It doesn't look that hard when you just watch it, but they're yeah they're brutal."
For that reason, Baskett made a temporary change in her routine last week, and she danced through the floor event in both meets without touching her hands down on her double-pike pass, as she had in the season-opener, and without going out of bounds or falling, as she did several times last year.
"Because I did the switcharound starting in the Georgia meet," she explained. "It's just nice to be able to just make a pretty solid routine."
Baskett hopes to do at least as well tonight at 8 p.m. MST when the second-ranked Utes (2-1) are at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis to meet 11th-ranked Oregon State (6-1).
"The switcharound" is that Baskett moved her usual final tumbling pass, with the double pike, to her middle pass, and she also removed one footstep from the pass.
Because floor exercise is grueling, especially since it's usually either the last (home meets) or next-to-last (at away meets) event, moving her most difficult pass to the middle of her routine means Baskett's not quite so winded when she attempts it.
"So I can work on doing the technique right and getting experience on the floor so that when I do switch it to my last pass, the technique will be there, and I won't change it as much when I'm tired," Baskett said.
"When I get tired, I tend to change technique, like, 'I'm tired; well, OK, I have to run faster.' And then I just bury myself on the floor. And, like, it just changes my pass so I end up doing stuff like opening up early and putting my hands down. It's all mental. I change my technique because, 'I'm tired, I have to go really fast.'
"Really I need to like not go fast and just take my time on it," she said.
Baskett scored 9.85 on floor at Georgia on Jan. 19 and 9.875 last Friday at home against Washington. That put her fairly close to her career-best all-around total (39.70) with a 39.625.
She may sacrifice a bit in scoring by doing the difficult double pike earlier in the routine, but once she's ready to switch it back to the end of the routine, she should pick up that little bit, even though coach Greg Marsden said the dismount Baskett is now doing "is up to the level" required.
It's really not supposed to make a difference in scoring, he said, but it's usually assumed that ending with a major skill leaves a bigger impression on the judges.
As for tonight's meet, Marsden said the only change he's anticipating is to have sophomore Kyndal Robarts lead off the beam set, which will be her first routine to count in 2009 as she returns from a torn labrum (right shoulder). "I think it will help us if we start with a hit routine," Marsden said.
Robarts replaces Gael Mackie, who fell twice last week in that leadoff spot and needs more seasoning. "She's been training well, but we have to give her time to get comfortable, maybe put her in exhibition more and give her a chance to work through this," said Marsden, adding that Mackie worries she's blowing her chance but shouldn't feel that way.
"I was like that my freshman and sophomore years, until I figured out something that works for me," Baskett said of Mackie. "It's just trial and error. It's different for everybody. That's so much intensive pressure in front of so many people. It's natural to get nervous."
Oregon State is a difficult place to perform, Marsden said. "It will be a tough meet to win up there, I guarantee it."
The Beavers compete well at home, he explained, and they're coming off a nice performance at Arizona, where they scored a season-high 196.45. Mandi Rodriguez (39.425 high) and Jami Lanz (39.375) are the team leaders. Rodriguez has scored 9.975 on floor this season.
Utah hosts BYU, Southern Utah and Texas Woman's University next Friday.