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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The struggle within

By Tony Pizza

As the first phase of the 2007 season came to a close for the Red Rocks on Friday night, one thing remained quite clear: The Utes still have a long way to go if they hope to capture their first National Championship in 11 years.

Despite improving their record to 7-0, the Red Rocks failed to capitalize on a generous scoring night from the judges and came away from Logan with an unimpressive 196.575-194.235 win over Utah State.

One reason for the Utes’ inability to post a high score was the absence of Ashley Postell from the lineup.

Postell took herself out of competition after having a rough week of practice where nothing seemed to be going her way. Fortunately for Postell and the rest of her team, her struggles in practice came in a week that the Utes weren’t desperate for her presence in the lineup. A few positives even arose from Postell’s one-meet hiatus.

Sparsely used gymnasts such as Jamie Deetscreek and Daria Bijak got the opportunity to step in and prove what they had to offer the team. Postell also had the chance to evaluate some of the things the team still needs a lot of work on while watching from the sidelines.

“Our whole team kinda has a thing right now about not really competing (on) beam with attitude, and that’s what we need to work on,” Postell said. “I definitely can notice it more, me just standing there and watching.”

Although the Utes were facing an inferior opponent, the team still needed a few solid performances-and it got just that out of Kristina Baskett and Nicolle Ford.

Baskett, who was scheduled to be left out on beam and subsequently the All-Around lineup for the first time this season, got a chance to slip into the beam lineup after Bijak strained a quad muscle during the first pass of her floor routine. Baskett earned the chance to replace Bijak after she opened up the meet with two straight 9.95s on bars and vault. Baskett then followed up those scores up with a 9.925 on floor.

On beam, Baskett came away with one of her cleanest performances of the season. Her 9.875 gave her an All-Around score of 39.7, which not only set a new career high for Baskett, but a Utah season high as well. Her score is also tied for the eighth best All-Around score in team history.

Ford, who was the runaway All-Around winner before Baskett was inserted into the beam lineup, scored a 39.625-just .025 points off her career best. Nina Kim also set a new career-high after running off a near-perfect bar routine for a score of 9.925.

As a team, the Red Rocks started their second straight meet with a season high. In last week’s quad meet, the Utes did it on vault; on Friday, they set a new benchmark on beam with a combined score of 49.55. The Utes followed that performance up with another strong showing on vault. With the judges in very generous moods, the Utes had a chance to set themselves up for a very high score before beginning the demanding task of qualifying for Regionals.

However, the Utes stumbled out of the gates on their floor rotations when Jessica Duke fell for only the fourth time in her collegiate career. Two routines later, Bijak injured herself on her first tumbling pass, and fell on the following two tumbling passes.

On beam, the freshman trio of Deetscreek, Annie DiLuzio and Sarah Shire each had a significant stammer or fall as head coach Greg Marsden looked on in disappointment. Not only did the Utes’ confidence not improve from a week’s worth of beam practice, but in many instances, it looked worse.

“How can you not be frustrated?” Marsden said. “It’s something different each week?in general, you just don’t feel like we’re really confident.”

At this point in the season, it looks like the Utes’ chances rest on one factor. If every gymnast in the starting lineup can get to a point at which she is competitive on beam, the Utes have a shot at contending for a National Championship. If the team continues to struggle on beam, then the Utes could be pressed to get to Nationals this year. It remains a simple, yet daunting mental challenge that most of the gymnasts have yet to conquer.

Notes: Friday night was the first time Bijak performed a beam routine for score. It was also Deetscreek’s first appearance in the starting lineup in any event. She wound up competing in two events, scoring a 9.775 on bars and a 9.75 on beam. The Red Rocks will travel to Athens, Ga., this weekend to take on the No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs. The next home meet for the Utes will be Feb. 23, when they host No. 8 Michigan.

Tyler Cobb

Kristina Baskett scores a 9.875 on the beam Friday night as the Utes beat Utah State in Logan.

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