Freshmen gymnasts react well to first time in Huntsman Center

It’s a yearly rite of passage for new gymnasts at the U. Walking into the Huntsman Center for the first time and performing in front of exponentially more fans than they ever have before.

Friday night was no different, as freshmen Nina Kim and Kristina Baskett vaulted, flipped, balanced and tumbled in front of 12,131 onlookers, a number that was not lost on them in the slightest.

“I was so excited,” Kim said. “It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever experienced.”

Outside of the Olympics, gymnastic competitions rarely garner more than a few thousand fans, and since recruiting visits are normally taken in the offseason, the first home meet is usually a freshman gymnast’s first experience with the big crowd. Utah sells to the gymnasts the fact that they will be competing in front of the largest audience in the nation, a claim they have been able to make for 21 of the last 24 years.

“I’ve never had that many people come to watch me,” Baskett said. “(The crowd) gets really excited and I just feed off their excitement.”

And Baskett feasted, all right. The highly touted recruit competed in all four events for the first time this season and won the all-around competition with a score of 39.325, narrowly edging out junior teammate Nicolle Ford.

Kim also turned in her best performance out of the first three meets, sticking her vault, bars and beam before a solid exhibition on floor.

“The older girls that have been through it understand and appreciate what (the freshmen) are going through,” Ute head coach Greg Marsden said. “They were talking to them and not letting them stand there and get lost in the crowd.”

It was the second-straight year that a Ute freshman has won the all-around in their home opener. Last season Ashley Postell pulled off the feat against UCLA, turning in a 39.625.

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