Defending NCAA Champion UCLA Opens 2005 Gymnastics Season At Utah

Jan. 3, 2005

UCLA Opens Season At Utah - Two-time defending NCAA gymnastics champion and pre-season No. 1 UCLA opens the 2005 season on Friday, Jan. 7 at fifth-ranked Utah with a 7 pm dual meet in the Huntsman Center. UCLA and Utah have won 14 NCAA Championships between them (UCLA with five, including four in the last five years, and Utah with nine).

Follow The Action Live - Live streaming video and live scoring will be available on the Utah webpage, www.utahutes.com.

About The Bruins - Top-ranked UCLA is coached by four-time national coach of the year Valorie Kondos Field. The Bruins return two All-Americans from last year's championship squad, both Olympians - 2000 U.S. Olympian and five-time All-American Kristen Maloney and two-time Canadian Olympian and eight-time All-American Kate Richardson. Adding to UCLA's Olympian pool is freshman Tasha Schwikert, Maloney's 2000 teammate and an alternate at the 2004 Games. Other notable returners for UCLA are Ashley Peckett, Lori Winn and Christie Tedmon, all key contributors to the Bruins' championship run last season. Sophomores Michelle Selesky and Courtney Walker should also see significant action in 2005. Joining Schwikert in the freshman class is her younger sister Jordan, a former two-time U.S. National Team member, and Lindsey Vanden Eykel, a former two-time U.S. National uneven bars champion. The freshmen will be expected to fill the big shoes left by departed All-Americans Jeanette Antolin, Jamie Dantzscher and Yvonne Tousek.

A Look At Utah - Greg Marsden's Utah Utes return three All-Americans in Annabeth Eberle, Kristen Riffanacht and Nicolle Ford. Sophomore Rachel Tidd likely would have been an All-American as well had she not fallen ill with mononucleosis just prior to the NCAA Championships. Tidd and freshman Ashley Postell give Utah two World Championship medalists. Postell won the gold medal on balance beam at the 2002 World Championships, and Tidd won a team bronze in 2001. Amongst Tidd's teammates in 2001 were UCLA freshman Tasha Schwikert and former Bruin Mohini Bhardwaj.

Last Time Against the Utes - A year after breaking Utah's national record home-court winning streak (23 years, 170 meets), the Utes returned the favor by defeating UCLA in Pauley Pavilion, 197.35-196.375. Two Bruins went down with injuries before the first rotation ended, and UCLA posted two sub-9.0 scores on vault in rotation one, putting the Bruins in a big hole from which they could not overcome. Kate Richardson made a strong statement in her season debut, however, scoring a career-high 39.85 in the all-around and earning a 10.0 on beam. Utah leads the overall regular season series, 18-2, but UCLA has outscored Utah in the last six NCAA Championship meets.

Bruins Ranked Pre-season No. 1 - For the fifth consecutive year, UCLA is ranked No. 1 in the pre-season poll, which is determined by voting by collegiate coaches. The Bruins received 15 of 26 first-place votes. Utah is ranked No. 5 and received two first-place votes. UCLA will face 12 of the Top 25 teams this season, including three of the Top 5 and seven of the Top 10.

Richardson Returns After Olympic Success - Junior Kate Richardson made history this summer when she became the first UCLA female gymnast to compete in the Olympics as a collegiate athlete. Richardson earned a spot on the Canadian Olympic team for the second-straight Games and qualified for the all-around finals after a 14th-place preliminary finish. She also became the first Canadian woman ever to qualify for event finals on floor exercise at the Olympic Games and only the second Canadian woman to make any event final at the Olympics. She finished seventh on floor.

Waller, Bhardwaj Team Up For Olympic Triumph - Bruin assistant coach Chris Waller played a significant role in the 2004 Olympic Games, coaching U.S. team captain and former Bruin Mohini Bhardwaj, who led the USA to a team silver medal. Bhardwaj also found individual success, qualifying for the floor exercise finals and placing seventh and placing eighth in all-around in preliminaries (she was unable to compete in the all-around finals, however, due to the two-per-country rule).

Sister Act - Freshmen Tasha and Jordan Schwikert are the first pair of sisters to compete concurrently for UCLA's gymnastics team. Tasha, 20, deferred enrollment in college to train towards an Olympic berth. Jordan, 18, just graduated in the spring from Centennial HS in Las Vegas, NV. The two sisters trained together at Gym Cats and were both U.S. National Team members. Tasha was a member of the 2000 Olympic squad and captain of the 2003 World Championship gold medal-winning team. She has won six U.S. National titles in her career and was an alternate for the 2004 Olympic Games. Jordan was a rising star who made the National Team from 2001-02, but a back injury kept her out of gymnastics in 2003, and she returned in 2004 as a Level 10 champion. Both Schwikerts are expected to compete all-around for the Bruins.

Looking Ahead - UCLA travels to Oregon State on Friday, Jan. 14 for a dual meet at Gil Coliseum at 7:30 pm before returning home for the home opener on Monday, Jan. 17 at 2 pm against Nebraska. In the home opener, UCLA will reveal the 2004 NCAA Championship banner, and 2004 U.S. Olympic team captain Mohini Bhardwaj will make a special appearance. There will also be pre- and post-meet entertainment by world-renowned dance team Culture Shock.

Join The 'Cub Club' - At each home meet, a different Bruin Cub will be a collectible Bruin Cub. There will be a different bear for sale at each meet. The first bear in the Cub Club Series will available for purchase at the Monday, Jan. 17 meet against Nebraska. The best part - everyone who purchases a Cub will receive an email update from a different Bruin gymnast each week.

Comforte, Chan, Dantzscher Twins To Join Bruins In 2006 - UCLA has signed U.S. National Team member Kristina Comforte, Level 10 national all-around champion Melissa Chan and former international elites Jalynne and Janelle Dantzscher to national letters of intent. The four standouts will join the Bruin squad for the 2006 season. Comforte, from Burr Ridge, IL (Illinois Gymnastics Institute) was the national vault runner-up in 2003 and the junior national champion in 2002. She is a two-time national team member. Chan, a former U.S. junior national vault champion from Los Gatos (Airborne Gymnastics), won the 2004 Level 10 (Senior C) national titles in the all-around, vault and beam. The San Dimas-based Dantzscher twins are the younger sisters of former Bruin superstar Jamie Dantzscher and train at SCEGA. Jalynne won the 2004 Level 10 (Senior A) national all-around and floor exercise titles. Janelle placed 11th in the all-around, third on vault and fifth on beam at the Regional Championships in 2004 and was the all-around, beam and floor regional champion in 2003.

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