UCLA Wins Fourth NCAA Championship
April 25, 2003
Lincoln, NE - The top-ranked UCLA gymnastics team wonits fourth NCAA Championship Friday night at theUniversity of Nebraska's Bob Devaney Center. UCLAtotaled a 197.825 to finish .55 ahead of second-placeAlabama, which scored 197.275. Georgia was third witha 197.15, followed by Nebraska with a 197.125,Michigan with a 196.05 and Utah with a 195.3.
The title is UCLA's fourth overall and third in thelast four years. The Bruins' previous wins came in1997, 2000 and 2001. It is UCLA's 88th overall NCAAtitle, a national-best.
UCLA kicked things off on vault with five straightdynamic vaults to close the rotation. Jeanette Antolinhit a clean 9.825 and was followed by Kristin Parker,who stuck her handspring front pike half for a 9.85.Kate Richardson scored a 9.9 with a Yurchenko layoutfull with good height and distance. Onnie Willislanded her Yurchenko layout full with such power thatshe bounced up but never left her toes and added a9.875. Jamie Dantzscher ended the set with anotherYurchenko full with good height and distance andscored a 9.9 to give the Bruins a team score of 49.35,good for first place after one rotation. Georgia wasclose behind in second with a 49.275 on floor.Michigan added a 49.075 on beam, and Utah struggled onbars and scored a 48.675.
Host school Nebraska and defending champion Alabamastarted their first events while UCLA went to a bye inrotation two. Alabama took a slight lead over theBruins with a 49.375 on floor, thanks in part toAshley Miles' 9.95. The Huskers, though, had to counta fall on the uneven bars and totaled a 48.8. Utahalso had to count a fall on beam and scored just 48.35on beam. Georgia moved to vault and scored 49.225 totake a two-event lead over Utah, 98.5-97.025.
In rotation three, UCLA moved to the uneven bars.Senior Doni Thompson led off with a 9.825, followed byWillis with a 9.85. Antolin (9.925), Yvonne Tousek(9.9) and Dantzscher (9.95) closed the set with three9.9+ scores to give the Bruins a 49.45 and athree-event lead with 98.8 points. Alabama, whichscored 49.225 on vault, was close behind with 98.6points, and Georgia was a just behind the Crimson Tidewith 98.5 points, followed by Michigan with 98.3points and Nebraska with 98.2.
UCLA moved to the balance beam for rotation four witha .2 lead over Alabama. In the leadoff position,Willis was not only steady but spectacular, scoring a9.925. Dantzscher was nearly flawless as well, scoringa 9.9. Malia Jones and Antolin hit for scores of 9.825and 9.85, respectively. Richardson nailed her routineand earned a 9.95, and Tousek closed with a strong9.9, giving UCLA a 49.525, the highest score of thenight on beam, and a three-event score of 148.325,.475 ahead of second-place Georgia's 147.85.
'It wasn't surprising to me because our falls andmistakes weren't because we were holding back,' saidUCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. 'On the beam, ifyou doubt yourself, you are off, but they had suchintegrity and confidence.'
Alabama emerged from rotation five as the Bruins'closest competitor, scoring 49.425 on bars for athree-event total of 148.025, just three-tenths behindUCLA. Georgia ended the meet with a 49.3 on beam and afinal total of 197.15, meaning the Bruins needed just48.85 on floor to overtake the Gym Dogs.
Antolin started the floor set with a stunning routinethat scored a 9.85. Parker hit for a 9.875, and Joneshit one of her best routines of the year for a 9.9. ARichardson fall on her final pass put some pressure onthe final two competitors, but Willis and Dantzscherresponded like champions. Willis danced and tumbled toa 9.9, and Dantzscher clinched the victory by scoringa near-perfect 9.975. The Bruins' final floor score of49.5 easily beat Alabama's 49.25 on beam.
'I had a nice long talk with myself this morning, andI just had such confidence in these people, not justas athletes, but also in their integrity as people,'said Kondos Field. 'All I asked was that we did thebest job we could, and that's what we did. We had somefalls out there, but the team never lost its focus.'
Seniors Jones, Parker, Carly Raab, Thompson and Willis- the 'Fab Five' - end their careers with three NCAAteam Championships.
Team Finals: 1. UCLA, 197.825; 2. Alabama, 197.275; 3.Georgia, 197.150; 4. Nebraska, 197.125; 5. Michigan,196.050; 6. Utah, 195.300.