Red-y to rock

Ute fans will get their first look at the 2006 gymnastics squad tonight as the No. 3 Utes (2-0) take on No. 6 Nebraska (4-1-1) in the R.C. Willey Invitational in the Huntsman Center at 7 p.m.

“Nebraska is very talented and well-coached,” Ute head coach Greg Marsden said. “Everyone is looking forward to competing in front of our home crowd.”

The Utes are coming off two solid road wins against UCLA and Washington, but Marsden stresses the importance of avoiding crucial falls, such as those suffered in the first couple weeks.

“I feel like we’ve gotten off to a reasonably good start on the road,” Marsden said, “but we had to count a mistake in both meets. I don’t think we’ll be able to do that against Nebraska this week at home and win.”

Freshman Nina Kim took falls in both of her first two floor routines, though she hammered out great recoveries after tough falls by teammates (on the bars at UCLA and beam at Washington). Kim says she’s looking forward to the opportunity for a new start at home.

“I’m trying to learn from my mistakes and take what I can take from my success,” Kim said. “I’m learning to train better. I’m not used to the weekly meets yet. I was a little bit tired the first couple weeks, and I still have room to get in better shape.”

Also getting her first taste of action at the Huntsman Center will be freshman Kristina Baskett, who has gotten off to an impressive start at the U with standout performances in weeks one and two.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Baskett said. “I had already committed to Utah when I first came to the Huntsman Center, and even though nobody was in the crowd, I have been anticipating a return ever since.”

Baskett was left off the balance beam lineup at Washington and was thus ineligible to compete for the all-around title. The freshman performed an exhibition routine that scored a 9.90, while the Utes had to count a fall for the event. Marsden later said Baskett was left out of the lineup because other Utes had practiced better throughout the week. The coach has yet to announce his beam lineup for tonight.

“I’m happy with my performance so far,” Baskett said, “but there is always room for improvement. (Marsden) said I need to be more consistent in practice on the beam. We’ll see if I’ve been consistent enough this week.”

Marsden believes his gymnasts will be fine under the pressure of their first home meet.

“Before any meet, my stomach’s turning over probably as much as the athletes’,” he said. “It scares the heck out of you and keeps you awake all night. But it’s that nervousness that keeps you going.”

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