UCLA Gymnasts Host Utah In Home Opener Saturday, Jan. 7

Jan. 5, 2006

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Powerhouses Collide When Bruins Host Utah Jan. 7 - Third-ranked UCLA (5-0) will host second-ranked Utah (0-0) on Saturday, Jan. 7 at 6 pm in the Bruins' home opener in Pauley Pavilion. The two teams have won a total of 14 NCAA Championships between them, with UCLA winning five (1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004) and Utah claiming nine (1982-86, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995). The Bruins and Utes are two of just four teams to win an NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championship (the other two are Georgia and Alabama).

Meet Promotions - At the conclusion of the Utah meet, the Bruins will be conducting a formal autograph session in the arena. Team posters will be distributed to the first 500 fans in attendance. In addition, a limited amount of free meet program posters will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. This week's program poster features senior Kate Richardson.

Live Coverage - Live streaming video and live scoring will be available for the Jan. 7 Utah meet at www.uclabruins.com. Video access is available for subscribers of UCLA All-Access. The fee for UCLA All-Access is $6.95 per month, and it allows users access to audio and video broadcasts of all available UCLA sporting events, including all five UCLA gymnastics home meets.

Tickets - Tickets to UCLA gymnastics meets are available for sale on a season ticket or single-meet basis. For the best value, UCLA offers a season ticket package that costs $30 ($6/meet) and are located in the reserved section. All season ticket holders will receive a special gift to be redeemed at each home meet this season. The season ticket holder gift for this week's meet is a photo with Joe and Josie Bruin (photos to be taken in the Chancellor's Room by Gate 15 from 5-5:45). Single-meet tickets are $12 (adult)/$10 (youth) for reserved and $8 (adult)/$6 (youth) for general admission. UCLA students are free with valid ID.

UCLA Ranked No. 3 In Pre-Season Poll - UCLA received three first-place votes and ranked third overall in the pre-season coaches' poll. Defending NCAA champion Georgia is the pre-season No. 1, with Utah ranking second. The Bruins will face nine of the Top 20 teams this season.

About The Bruins - Five-time NCAA champion UCLA is coached by four-time national coach of the year Valorie Kondos Field. The Bruins return three All-Americans from last year's Pac-10 and NCAA West Regional championship squads - reigning NCAA champion Tasha Schwikert, 2003 NCAA bars and beam champion Kate Richardson and 2005 balance beam All-American Jordan Schwikert. Tasha Schwikert swept through the post-season, winning the all-around at the Pac-10s, NCAA West Regionals and NCAA Championships. Richardson is a 10-time All-American and two-time Canadian Olympian. Jordan Schwikert earned All-Pac-10 honors in the all-around as a freshman last year. Also returning are junior veterans Ashley Peckett, Michelle Selesky and Courtney Walker. Peckett has been a major player in UCLA's NCAA Championship squads the last two seasons, recording solid leadoff scores for the Bruins each year. Selesky is this year's team co-captain, along with Richardson, and Walker had a breakthrough year last season, competing for the Bruins on two events at the NCAA Championships and earning a career-high on bars at the NCAA Team Finals.

With seven freshmen on the squad, the majority of UCLA's team are rookies, and they are a talented young group. Kristina Comforte is a current member of the U.S. National Team. Melissa Chan was a three-time Level 10 all-around champion and former junior national champion. Maranda Smith is the reigning Level 10 national floor champion. Jalynne Dantzscher won the 2004 Level 10 all-around crown, while her twin sister Janelle was the 2003 Level 10 regional all-around champion. Walk-ons Alyssa Kitasoe, a standout Level 10 performer, and Ariana Berlin, who was once training elite, will also be key contributors.

Scouting The Utes - Utah returns all but one member of last year's squad that placed third at the NCAA Championships. Amongst the returners are five-time All-American Ashley Postell and four-time All-American Nicolle Ford. Postell placed third behind UCLA's Tasha Schwikert and Kristen Maloney in the all-around at the 2005 NCAA Championships. The Utes also brought in highly-touted freshmen Nina Kim and Kristina Baskett.

The Series With Utah - Utah leads the all-time regular-season series between the teams, 19-2, and won the last two openers against the Bruins, 197.675-197.3 in Utah in 2005 and 197.35-196.375 in Pauley in 2004. UCLA's last regular-season win was a big one. In 2003, the Bruins broke the longest home-court winning streak in the history of NCAA sports (23 years and 170 meets) with a 197.225-196.75 victory at the Huntsman Center.

Freshmen Jump Right Into Competition - Six freshmen competed a total of 18 routines (75%) in the Bruins' season opener at Hawaii, helping UCLA win the meet with a total of 193.775. Melissa Chan placed third in the all-around with a 38.6, followed closely by Kristina Comforte, who scored 38.575. Comforte placed second on beam and third on vault, while Chan earned a third-place finish on beam. Two other freshmen placed in the Top 3 on floor in their first collegiate meets - Janelle Dantzscher (second place) and Maranda Smith (tied for third). Jalynne Dantzscher competed on three events and placed fourth on beam with a 9.65. Ariana Berlin competed on vault and beam and scored a 9.75 on vault in her first competition in nearly five years. Berlin retired from gymnastics after a serious car accident in November of 2001.

Richardson Recovered From Fractured Tibia - Bionic woman Kate Richardson has fully recovered from a fractured tibia suffered in September. The senior co-captain won the all-around (38.75), vault (9.85) and floor (9.8) at the Bruins' season opener in Hawaii. Returning quickly from injury is nothing new for her. Last season, she missed just two meets after suffering a functional rupture of the ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb on Feb. 18. In 2002, she won the Commonwealth Games just a few months after undergoing back surgery.

Shoulder Surgeries Sideline Schwikerts - Shoulder injuries have sidelined the Schwikert sisters for the beginning of the season. Both had arthroscopic surgery done in the off-season - Jordan in November and Tasha in December. Jordan is expected back later this month, while Tasha could be out 2-3 months.

Sister Sister - Last season, Tasha and Jordan Schwikert became the first pair of sisters to compete concurrently for UCLA's gymnastics team. This season, the sisters are joined by another pair of sisters, Jalynne and Janelle Dantzscher, who are the first set of twins to compete for the Bruins. The name Dantzscher should be a familiar one to Bruin fans. The twins' older sister Jamie Dantzscher competed for UCLA from 2001-04 and won three NCAA team (2001, 2003, 2004) and four NCAA individual titles (2002 all-around, vault, floor; 2003 bars).

Early Graduates - Three members of the UCLA squad graduated from high school early to join the Bruins. Jalynne and Janelle Dantzscher took extra community college courses last year so that they could graduate a year early from San Dimas HS. Maranda Smith graduated a half-year early in December and just joined the Bruin team on Dec. 27. She will begin classes at UCLA on Jan. 9 when winter quarter begins.

Standout Recruiting Class To Join UCLA In 2007 - Head coach Valorie Kondos Field signed perhaps the strongest recruiting class in the nation during the early signing period, inking 2005 World Floor Champion Alicia Sacramone, 2005 U.S. National Team member Brittani McCullough and 2005 U.S. Championships competitors Ashley Jenkins and Anna Li. Sacramone, who hails from Winchester, Mass. and trains at Brestyan's Gymnastics, was a double-medalist at the 2005 Worlds, winning floor and taking bronze on vault. She is also the defending U.S. vault and floor champion. McCullough, from Corona, Calif., trains at SCEGA and made a rapid rise from Level 10 national vault, bars and floor champion in May to 11th-place all-around finisher at the U.S. Championships in August. Jenkins, who lives in Laguna Niguel, Calif. and trains at SCATS, was a member of the 2003 U.S. Junior National Team. Li is a two-time U.S. nationals qualifier and 2004 Level 10 national beam champion from Aurora, Ill. and Aerial Gymnastics Club.

'We are extremely excited about the diversity, experience and overall athleticism that these elite athletes will bring to our program,' said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. 'They are all exceptionally talented student-athletes in their own right, yet together they combine to form one of the strongest classes in the history of UCLA gymnastics.'

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