Rocks head to Baskett’s home town for regionals

By Bryan Chouinard, Staff Writer

It seems that March 13 wasn’t Kristina Baskett’s last home meet after all.

Baskett received flowers as the Huntsman Center said good-bye to her and Nina Kim before the Florida meet. Monday morning, Baskett found out she’d have an encore going-away party.

Baskett and the Red Rocks will travel to Baskett’s hometown of Seattle for their NCAA West regional meet as they try to earn a place in the NCAA Championships.

“I’m definitely excited,” Baskett said. “I kind of had a feeling we were going to go there, but I’m glad it’s set in stone.”

Baskett grew up in Normandy Park, Wash., a small city approximately 20 minutes outside of downtown Seattle. Although she knows she will be a hometown favorite, Baskett isn’t expecting a huge fan section.

“I’ll have more (fans) than most people,” Baskett said. “It won’t be big, but it will be meaningful and close to me. So that’s going to mean a lot, having those people there.”

Monday morning, when the regional pairings were released, head coach Greg Marsden was ready for one of two options: First was a trip to Iowa City, Iowa, to take part in the North Central regional qualifier. The second was to take the much shorter plane ride to Seattle.

“From the time two years ago when I saw who had been awarded bids, I was afraid to hope for (Seattle),” Marsden said. “Because this is the only (city) I wanted to travel to. And all of them are good hosts and they will all do a good job, but in this day and age, what we’re going to save as a department by us going to Seattle is the big thing.”

Marsden estimated the athletic department would save approximately $20,000 by sending the Red Rocks to Seattle rather than to Iowa City. Another positive for Utah of traveling north is the familiarity the team has with that city. Every other year, Marsden and the Red Rocks travel to Seattle to take on the University of Washington, and every gymnast on the team has been to Seattle at least once, except freshmen Cortni Beers and Stephanie McAllister.

“We already know where we want to go eat,” Marsden said. “We got everything done already, we have our flights, our buses, and we have our meals already planned.”

The Red Rocks’ biggest competition in Seattle will be No. 11 Auburn and No. 14 Illinois as part of the S-format seeding, which is modified for optimal planning and typically pairs higher seeds like No. 1 with No. 12, No. 2 with No. 11, No. 3 with No. 10, etc. Washington will be hosting the event and San Jose State and Boise State round out the field of six.

Unranked Washington is the only team Utah had seen during the regular season. Even though the Red Rocks won’t be facing any team from the Tzop 10, they know they can’t take anything for granted.

In the meantime, Utah will use almost two weeks to prepare for regionals, which is a new process in and of itself.

“Transitioning from regular season to post-season is hard,” Kim said. “We have long weeks of school and gym and it’s just hard on our bodies and mentally.”

Although staying healthy enough for a good showing at nationals is Utah’s main concern, setting itself up for optimal seeding is also in the back of the gymnasts’ minds.

“We want to get the highest seed possible going into nationals,” Baskett said. “Not that it means a whole lot, but it won’t hurt you. It will only help. (Regionals) is just another chance to prepare for nationals.”

The Red Rocks will have a mock meet Friday in the Dumke Center in hopes of keeping the sense of urgency high and will leave April 3 for Seattle. This will be the second time this season the Red Rocks will have a weekend off between meets.

“This is what we have been waiting for,” Kim said. “We’re so excited for regionals and nationals and we’re going to work so hard and just have a good time.”

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Greg Harlow

The Red Rocks will travel to Kristina Baskett?s hometown of Seattle for their NCAA West Regional on Saturday, April 4. The team?s familiarity with the location provides a positive element in their efforts to qualify for NCAA Nationals.