Baskett case (gym)

By and

CORVALLIS, Ore.-Coming off Friday’s second-place finish in the team competition, several Red Rocks had little time to rest. Saturday’s individual competitions offered the Utes another chance to reach the top of the podium, and it produced some extra consolation from an unexpected source.

While Ashley Postell made the finals in every event and seasoned vets Nicolle Ford and Gritt Hofmann also made finals, it was freshman Kristina Baskett who seized the opportunity for a first-place finish, tying Georgia freshman and all-around winner Courtney Kupets for the win on uneven bars with a 9.85. It was Utah’s first event title since 2001 when Theresa Kulikowski triumphed on balance beam.

Baskett had long been uncomfortable on the event prior to this season, which was the first season that U assistant coach Jeff Graba has coached the event for the Utes.

“I had never been consistent. Maybe I was putting too much on my plate with elements in elite, but now it seems to be working,” Baskett said.

Baskett also had a meet-best 9.90 in the event Friday.

“I hope it motivates her to realize that she’s really capable on any event,” Marsden said. “It was a bit of a surprise, but there are so many talented people, and it just depends on who’s on that night. She hit every handstand and stuck her dismount and just did a beautiful routine.”

Kupets also won on floor and balance beam, while Alabama’s Ashley Miles took vault for the third-straight year.

Postell appeared lethargic throughout Saturday and pulled out of the floor competition because of strain on her legs.

“It’s hard to do all-around three days in a row,” she said. “I pulled out because my legs hurt. It probably was not a good night to do floor. (Friday’s team competition) was what matters the most.”

Marsden sympathized with his exhausted athlete.

“I felt bad for her,” he said. “We knew (before the) night she probably wasn’t going to compete. Her body was just beat. She was in treatment most of the afternoon trying to get those legs feeling better.”

Ford and Hofmann finished seventh and eighth in vault finals, despite not expecting to compete. Hofmann’s second vault had a start value of just 9.9, while Ford hadn’t performed her second vault for two years. Ford also finished fifth on bars.

All of the event finalists win All-American honors. Postell is now a 10-time All-American, while Ford has won the honor seven times.

The success of the weekend left many Utes looking forward to next season, when the U will be receiving six talented new freshmen that may give them the depth to challenge Georgia.

“It will be a great group of upperclassmen,” Marsden said. “The strength of our program is Kristina, Nina, Ashley and Nicolle. That’s a great start, and with our freshmen, we should be in contention again next year.”

The 2007 NCAA Championships will be held in Salt Lake City next season.

The Associated Press

Ute freshman Kristina Baskett (left) poses with Georgia’s Courtney Kupets after the pair tied for the individual national championship in uneven bars.