There’s no place like home

More than 12,000 fans-12,131 to be exact-received their first look at the 2006 Ute gymnastics squad Friday night in the Huntsman Center. After the most consistent performance from the Utes in three meets this year, they didn’t leave disappointed.

Kristina Baskett won her first ever all-around title and the No. 3 Utes (3-0) sent No. 6 Nebraska packing, 195.750 to 193.00, at the R.C. Willey Invitational.

Baskett wasn’t even sure she’d have a shot at the all-around until she discovered she’d cracked the balance beam lineup on Thursday morning.

“I found out when I read the newspaper,” Baskett said.

The freshman would have won the all-around title the previous week at Washington but head coach Greg Marsden left her out of the beam lineup. Baskett scored a 9.90 in an exhibition beam routine against the Huskies, and made Marsden’s decision much easier this time around with solid training in the event all week.

“I’m learning to train better,” Baskett said. “Tonight I just tried to treat (the beam) the same as practice.”

Nicolle Ford gave Baskett a run for her money despite competing with a sore wrist, leading by .25 headed into the final rotation. Ford scored a 9.825 on her crowd-pleasing floor exercise, but Baskett was unperturbed and followed with a spectacular 9.90 routine.

Ford doesn’t anticipate that her wrist will hamper her much in competition in the near future.

“It’d be nice if I could’ve trained more,” said the junior team co-captain, who was unable to even practice before the vault. “It’s much easier to compete than in practice, though.”

“She’s a tough kid who is very determined,” Marsden said of Ford. “It hasn’t shown up on the MRI, but in my opinion (Ford’s wrist) seems to be acting a bit like a bone bruise. If it is, it’s just something she’ll have to live with for a while.”

Ashley Postell continued her admirable comeback from reconstructive elbow surgery with a solid showing in front of the Huntsman Center crowd. Only a break on the balance beam- Postell’s specialty-put her out of the running for her second all-around win of the season.

“It amazes me,” Marsden said of Postell’s performance. “She was out for eight weeks and already she’s back doing the all-around for us. It’s truly incredible.”

Freshman Nina Kim rebounded from shaky performances in the U’s opening two road meets with strong performances on vault and balance beam.

“I made it today!” a relieved Kim exclaimed afterward.

Coach Marsden and the team were happy just to avoid counting a fall in the third meet of the young season.

“We made a big improvement tonight with consistency, getting some people back on track,” said Ford.

Gritt Hofmann took an uncharacteristic fall on the floor when she decided to back out of an upgrade on her final tumbling pass at the last second, landing awkwardly on her head.

“It didn’t feel like it was that bad,” Hoffman said. Marsden revealed that the senior hurt her ankle on the landing.

“She got lost on her double twist,” explained Marsden. “I said something to her about (the upgrade) beforehand, but she decided to go ahead and go for it. She was trying to be aggressive. It probably wasn’t the best decision, but we’ll try to prepare for it again next week.”

For their part, the Cornhuskers took themselves out of the running early with a rough showing on the uneven bars and a poor balance beam performance.

“We had some people competing for the first time on some things,” said Nebraska head coach Dan Kendig. “Obviously they didn’t get it done. It’s frustrating. This is the third-straight time we’ve come to Utah, and things haven’t stacked up for us.”

Kendig also wasn’t particularly happy with the judging on the night. He was asked about the stingy scoring after the meet.

“I shouldn’t talk about the judges,” Kendig said, “I’ll get in trouble. I’ll just say they kind of had some scores that might have been a different story here or there.”

Emily Parsons was the lone bright spot for Nebraska. The standout sophomore received the only score of the night over 9.90 on the vault with a 9.95, and also won the balance beam with a 9.875. Parson’s score of 9.425 on the bars put her out of the running for the all-around, however.

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