April 5, 2009


SEATTLE - Nina Kim, the nation's sixth-ranked all-arounder, fell ill two days prior to the NCAA West Region Championships, but that was the only fall the No. 2 ranked Utes would experience en route to a first-place finish and an invitation to a record 28th-striaght NCAA Championships. Utah scored a 197.675 to win the meet by nearly a point over Illinois (196.700). The Illini's runner-up finish earned them their first NCAA Championship ticket.

Completing the field were Boise State in third (195.300), Auburn in fourth (195.250) and a tie for fifth between host Washington and San Jose State (194.800).

With Kim sitting on the sidelines, Kristina Baskett won her eighth all-around title of the year, followed by two teammates. Daria Bijak placed second with a career-best 39.55 and Jamie Deetscreek took third (39.475).

Baskett also won vault and tied for first on floor with Annie DiLuzio--both with 9.95s. Deetscreek won beam with a career-best 9.95.

Utah, which started the meet on a bye, went right to work on its first event, producing its second-best floor score of the year--a 49.550. Baskett and DiLuzio led the brilliant set with 9.95s. They were immediately preceded by 9.90 routines from Kyndal Robarts and Daria Bijak. Deetscreek led off Utah's meet with a 9.825. McAllister performed admirably in her replacement set for Kim, tying a career best with a 9.85. Also tying career highs were Baskett and Robarts. The one-event totals had Utah in the lead with a 49.55, followed by Illinois (49.125), Auburn (49.075), Boise State (48.975), Washington (48.875) and San Jose State (48.325).

The Utes steamrolled through vault, as well, scoring a 49.45 (tied for its third-best score of the season on the apparatus). Baskett won top honors with a 9.95 that received a 10.0 from one of the four-member judging panel. The Seattle-area native's vault certainly looked perfect to the fans in the stands, who expressed disappointment in the 9.95. Also nailing big vaults were DiLuzio, who finished her work for the night with a 9.90, and Bijak's 9.875 from the first position. Bijak, whose vault is unique to college gymnastics, stuck it on a dime but her insistence on going first to prevent getting cold likely once again hurt her on the scorecard. Mackie set a career-high with a 9.825 in replacement of Kim and Deetscreek's 9.85 led into a 9.875 routine by Robarts. DiLuzio (9.90) and Baskett (9.95) closed the set and Utah headed into the locker room for its second and final bye.

At the two-event mark for every team, the three leaders were Utah (99.00), Illinois (98.40) and Auburn (97.90). The 99.00 score was the best halftime score of the year for the Utes.

The bye had seemingly little effect on the Utes when they returned to action on the uneven bars--and, even more importantly, neither did Kim's substitute. Competing in her first collegiate bar routine and just the second competitive routine of her career (the other coming on floor nearly two months ago at Utah State), sophomore Jacquelyn Johnson responded with a 9.825. First up off the break was McAllister, who scored a 9.80. Deetscreek went for a 9.85, to bring up another closely watched routine: Mackie, with her left eye swollen nearly closed with an allergy-induced inflammation refused to be rattled and scored a 9.80. Polishing off the set were Bijak (9.85) and Baskett (9.925). Utah's 49.25 on the bars, while not close to its season-best 49.525, was the best by any team at the meet.

While Utah was in the bye room, Illinois pulled away from an Auburn team that had to count a fall on the floor. After every team had three scores in, the leaders remained Utah (148.250), Illinois (147.500) and Auburn (146.325).

Off to the beam went the Utes for their final event. After Robarts--arguably the nation's best leadoff on beam--scored a 9.875, McAllister made her college debut on the event. She put up a 9.80 and the Utes were off and running to their second-best beam score of the year (49.425) even without their best beam worker (Kim is ranked No. 5 in the nation on the beam and is Utah's anchor). Mackie again refused to let her eye imbalance her, scoring a career-tying 9.85. Deetscreek then ripped off a career-best 9.95--the best score of the meet--followed by a career-tying 9.925 by Bijak. Baskett finished Utah's night with a 9.825.

There were no surprises in the other five regions. Florida and UCLA came out of the North Central, Arkansas and Stanford from the south Central, LSU and Oregon State from the Central, Alabama and Oklahoma from the Northeast and Georgia and Penn State from the Southeast. Nebraska, which will host the NCAA Championships on April 16-18, fell just short of qualifying out of the Southeast regional.