Unity integral to Red Rocks’ success

By Bryan Chouinard, Staff Writer

Joe Paterno, head coach of the Penn State football team, once said, “When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality.”

College gymnastics likely wasn’t on his mind when Paterno8212;the winningest college football coach of all time8212;said this, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply.

“This is a team that has very good chemistry,” said Red Rocks head coach Greg Marsden. “And they have been working really hard at it.”

For the past three years, the Utah gymnastics team has come up short of Georgia at Nationals, finishing second each year. This year has the potential to be different, and many inside the Dumke Center credit this to the chemistry of this year’s team.

“It feels like we have been working for the last couple years to align this team,” said senior Kristina Baskett. “It feels like it has been in the working process for a long time and that’s why we have been so enthusiastic about taking this opportunity. I don’t think a group like this comes together often and I don’t think it’s a coincidence either that we’re all on the same page.”

This concept of togetherness is reminiscent of Herb Brooks, coach of the 1980 U.S. hockey team that pulled off the “Miracle on Ice.” Brooks stressed the importance of teamwork and chemistry and that it’s not about having the best players, but having the best team. That’s what has gotten the Red Rocks to where they are today8212;ready to travel to Seattle for the Western regional qualifier for this year’s NCAA National Championships.

“We all just want the same thing,” Baskett said. “There will always be times when you say you want it, but some people aren’t willing to do what it takes to do it. But this year, every single girl on this team wants the same thing, knows what it takes and is willing do what it takes.”

Doing what it takes isn’t always the easiest thing, either. In the past, Marsden has called this his “smallest and deepest” team he has ever had, but when your team is as deep as Utah is at every event, that means there will always be someone left out come competition time.

“(Competition in the gym) is good,” Marsden said. “It’s good in the sense that people aren’t totally happy with (their) amount of time in the line-up. But in a positive way, they understand why that is and if they want it to change, they have to work towards that. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Competition in the gym is nothing new for the Red Rocks this season. As early as the preseason, coaches have held mock meets during practice, not only to promote competition, but to also get across a very important message8212;compete how you practice and practice how you compete.

“It’s been very obvious that what we do in practice really affects what we do in the meets,” Baskett said. “And that’s been kind of specific to this team and (Marsden) has noticed that.”

Thus far, competition has proven good for Utah, which is ranked No. 2 in the nation going into the postseason. Behind every strong group effort, there are strong leaders, specifically seniors Baskett and Nina Kim. Finishing second every year of their careers here at Utah has motivated the Red Rocks’ two top performers to their best seasons.

“(Kristina and Nina) bring us together,” said junior Jamie Deetscreek. “But then we all have to lead in our own way. So they motivate us, but we all have our roles we have to live up to and we all bring something different. We all have our own qualities that make us work better as a team.”

Utah fans can expect much of what they have seen all season in the upcoming regional finals. Marsden is expected to use all four all-arounds (Baskett, Kim, Deetscreek and junior Daria Bijak) during the postseason. Just as it has been all season, any one of them can step up on any given night.

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Tyler Cobb

The Red Rocks cheer on Daria Bijak during her floor routine. Utah has been working on team chemistry this year and I could pay off when the team goes to nationals.