Three Bruin Gymnasts To Compete At NCAA Championships

April 17, 2006

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NCAA Championships - Three Bruin gymnasts will represent UCLA at the NCAA Championships - all-around qualifiers Kate Richardson and Kristina Comforte and vault specialist Tasha Schwikert. The UCLA team failed to qualify for the Championships after a third-place team finish at the NCAA South Central Regionals on Apr. 8. The NCAA Championships will be held Apr. 20-22 in Corvallis, Ore.

Competition Format - The three-day competition begins on Thursday, Apr. 20 with two sessions (1:00 pm and 7:00 pm PT) of preliminary competition, during which all teams and individual qualifiers will compete. At stake Thursday are berths in Friday's Super Six Team Finals, the individual all-around title and berths in the individual event finals. Individuals qualify for event finals by placing in the top four (including ties) of that particular event during their own preliminary session. The all-around winner is the highest individual all-around scorer in either of Thursday's two preliminary sessions. On Friday, Apr. 21 at 7:00 pm, the top three teams from each preliminary session will compete in the Super Six Team Finals. The individual event finals will take place on Saturday, Apr. 22 at 7:00 pm.

The Field - Teams competing in Thursday's afternoon session are Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU, Utah, Michigan and Nebraska. Competing in the evening session are Georgia, Arkansas, Arizona State, Florida, Oregon State and Iowa State. The individual all-around competitors are UCLA's Kate Richardson and Kristina Comforte, Stanford's Tabitha Yim and Natalie Foley, Arizona's Karin Wurm, Minnesota's Laura Johnson, New Hampshire's Amanda Hall, Missouri's Adrianne Perry, North Carolina's Christine Robella, Michigan State's Kristen Coleman, Penn State's Jennifer Orlando and Auburn's Julie Dwyer. Individual event qualifiers are UCLA's Tasha Schwikert, Auburn's Lindsey Puckett, Kentucky's Krystle Cook and Denver's Casey Dobyns on vault; Arizona's Aubrey Taylor on bars; and North Carolina State's Leigha Hancock on floor.

Bruin Trio To Compete In Evening Session - All three UCLA individuals will compete in Thursday's evening session at 7 pm. Kate Richardson will rotate with host team Oregon State, while Kristina Comforte will rotate with Iowa State. Tasha Schwikert, who is only competing on vault, will go up in rotation four with the Florida team.

On Air - The NCAA Championships will air on CBS on Saturday, May 6 at 10:00 am PT. Tim Brando and Amanda Borden will call the action.

Live Coverage - Live scoring will be available at ncaasports.com.

UCLA's Individual NCAA Championship History - A total of 13 Bruins have won 25 NCAA titles to rank second behind only Georgia (26) in individual NCAA titles. UCLA's NCAA champions are: Kim Hamilton (1987-88-89 floor, 1989 vault), Jill Andrews (1988 vault, 1989 beam), Stella Umeh (1995 and 1998 floor), Heidi Moneymaker (1998 bars, 1999 vault), Kiralee Hayashi (1999 beam), Mohini Bhardwaj (2000 bars, 2001 floor), Lena Degteva (2000 beam), Onnie Willis (2001 all-around); Yvonne Tousek (2001 bars), Jamie Dantzscher (2002 all-around, vault and floor; 2003 bars), Kate Richardson (2003 bars and beam), Tasha Schwikert (2005 all-around) and Kristen Maloney (2005 vault, beam). Two other Bruins won AIAW national titles - Sharon Shapiro (1980-81 all-around and vault, 1980 bars, 1980 beam, 1980 floor) and Diane Dovas (1981 bars). Shapiro remains the only gymnast ever to sweep the all-around and all four events in one year at a national championships. Hamilton is the only woman to win three consecutive floor titles. UCLA has won at least two individual titles in seven of the last eight years and three titles in four of the last five years. UCLA has won a team or individual title every year since 1997 and has won more individual titles in the last eight years (18) than any other team.

Richardson Hopes To Bookmark Career With More NCAA Titles -- In the last meet of her illustrious career, UCLA senior Kate Richardson (Coquitlam, BC) will attempt to add to her collection of NCAA trophies. She began her collegiate career in 2003 with three NCAA titles, winning individual titles on beam (9.938) and bars (9.9, tied with teammate Jamie Dantzscher) and helping the Bruins win their fourth team title. Richardson helped UCLA win another team title in 2004 and tied for fourth in the all-around (39.575). She also has third-place finishes in the all-around in 2003 and on bars in 2004 and a fourth-place showing on beam in 2005.

Richardson is having another outstanding season, ranking in the Top 10 in all four events (fifth on beam, ninth on vault, bars and floor) and the all-around (third). The 2006 Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year and two-time Canadian Olympian joins Georgia's Courtney Kupets as the only two gymnasts in the nation to rank in the Top 10 all the way across the board. Richardson has a team-high 33 individual victories this season, including eight in the all-around. The 10-time All-American leads UCLA with season averages of 9.865 on vault and 9.871 on bars and has recorded season-bests of 9.925 on vault and 9.95 on bars, beam and floor. Her all-around season-high is 39.575. Richardson nearly swept at the NCAA South Central Regional, placing first on bars, beam, floor and the all-around. She did pull out a complete sweep at a quad meet at California on Feb. 10, winning all four events and the all-around. Richardson has accomplished all of this despite having to come back from a fractured tibia suffered in September that delayed her pre-season training. She also had a triceps injury that forced her out of the Feb. 17 meet at Georgia.

Defending All-Around Champ Schwikert Aims For Vault Title -- Sophomore Tasha Schwikert (Las Vegas, NV) is the defending NCAA all-around champion, having won the title in 2005 with a score of 39.725. She will not have a chance to defend her all-around title this year, however, since she is competing as a vault specialist. Schwikert, a 2000 U.S. Olympian and two-time U.S. National all-around champion, qualified for the Championships on that event after placing first at the NCAA South Central Regionals with a 9.9 on just her second vault of the season. She has only competed in three meets this year due to December shoulder surgery and had not attempted the all-around due to limitations on her shoulder. Her vault scores this season have been 9.85 and 9.9 for an average of 9.875. In her career, she has averaged 9.891 on vault, with a high of 9.975.

Last year, Schwikert qualified for event finals on all four events and tied for third on bars (9.8875) and fifth on beam (9.8625) but withdrew from vault and floor due to illness. The 2005 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year swept through the post-season, with all-around victories at the Pac-10, Regional and National meets.

Comforte Develops Into One Of Nation's Top All-Arounders - Freshman Kristina Comforte (Burr Ridge, IL) entered the 2006 season as one of the top freshmen in the nation and has developed into one of the top all-around gymnasts in the nation. Coming off a sixth-place finish at the 2005 U.S. Championships, Comforte quickly became one of UCLA's leaders, earning Top 5 all-around finishes in UCLA's first five meets. At Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 3, Comforte hit a flawless Yurchenko layout full vault to receive her first career perfect score and the first perfect 10 in the country. She also won the uneven bars at that meet with a then-career-best 9.9 and placed second in the all-around with a then-career-high 39.475. In addition, she finished third on both beam (9.825) and floor (9.75). She took her first all-around title on Mar. 5, scoring a career-best 39.575 against Stanford and San Jose State. In the final regular season national rankings, she finished 11th in the all-around with an RQS of 39.410, sixth on bars (9.9) and 10th on beam (9.885). Amongst freshmen, she ranks second in the all-around, and her season-high of 39.575 also ranks as the second-highest amongst freshmen this year.

Comforte enters nationals having hit 17 consecutive routines for an average score of 9.85. She has eight Top 3 placements in all-around action in her last nine meets and leads the team in routines competed with 54.

Event-By-Event Look At the Bruins --

Vault:
*All three Bruins compete Yurchenko layout full vaults.
*Kristina Comforte also competed a layout Podkopayeva (Yurchenko half-on, layout front half off) earlier this year and previously performed Yurchenko double fulls as an elite last year. Kate Richardson performed an Omelianchik (Yurchenko half-on, piked front off) at the 2004 NCAA Event Finals and a Podkopayeva (Yurchenko half-on, front pike half off) at the 2004 Olympics. Tasha Schwikert competed a Yurchenko one-and-a-half as an elite.
*Schwikert has only vaulted twice this season due to shoulder surgery but has scored 9.85 and 9.9 on those two vaults, for an average of 9.875. (View Schwikert's winning vault at the NCAA Regionals)
*Comforte scored the first perfect 10 in the nation on Feb. 3 at Cal State Fullerton. She averages 9.766 for the season. (View Comforte's perfect 10 Vault)
*Richardson scored a perfect 10 on Jan. 25, 2004 in Minnesota, and her season-high is 9.925, set Mar. 5 vs. Stanford/San Jose State. She averages 9.865 on the year and ranks ninth nationally with a RQS of 9.9.
*Schwikert's career-high is 9.975, set Mar. 6, 2005 against Florida.
*Richardson leads the Bruins with six vault wins this year. Comforte has two, while Schwikert has one.
*Schwikert was a first-team All-American on vault last season but did not compete in event finals for vault due to illness. Richardson was a first-team All-American on vault in 2004.
*Richardson won Canadian national titles on vault in 2000 and 2001.
*Comforte won the U.S. National title (junior division) on vault in 2002 and was the runner-up at the 2003 U.S. Championships. She won the vault title at the Trophee Massilia in France in 2003, beating two-time Olympic champion Elena Zamolodchikova of Russia.

Bars:
*Comforte and Richardson both rank in the Top 10 nationally. Comforte is sixth with an RQS of 9.9, and Richardson ranks ninth with a 9.895.
*Comforte's season-high is 9.95, set Feb. 19 against Arizona State, Cal State Fullerton and UC Davis. Her season average is 9.820.
*Richardson's season-high is 9.95, set Jan. 7 against Utah. Her career-high is a 9.975, set Jan. 17, 2005, and her season average is 9.871.
*Some of the big skills Comforte performs are a toe-on Shaposhnikova, shootover to handstand, piked Jaeger and double layout dismount. (View Comforte on bars at the Cal State Fullerton meet)
*Richardson's big skills include a Jaeger out of inverts, Pak salto and double layout dismount. (View Richardson on bars at the NCAA Regionals)
*Richardson leads the Bruins with five uneven bars wins this year, followed closely by Comforte with four.
*Richardson won a share of the NCAA uneven bars title in 2003 as a freshman, tying with teammate Jamie Dantzscher with scores of 9.9. Richardson also placed third on bars at NCAAs in 2004.
*Richardson won the Canadian national title on bars in 2001.

Beam:
*Richardson and Comforte both rank in the Top 10 nationally. Richardson ranks fifth (9.91 RQS) and Comforte ranks 10th (9.885).
*Richardson is UCLA's all-time leader in perfect 10s scored on beam with four (Jan. 19, 2003; Feb. 16, 2003; Jan. 10, 2004; Feb. 1, 2004).
*Richardson's season-high is 9.95, set twice, Jan. 7 vs. Utah and Mar. 25 at the Pac-10 Championships (View Richardson's beam routine from the Pac-10 Championships).Comforte's season-high is 9.9, set four times - Jan. 22 vs. Oregon State, Feb. 24 at Arizona, Mar. 5 vs. Stanford/San Jose State and Mar. 25 at Pac-10 Championships (View Comforte's beam routine from the Pac-10 Championships).
*Comforte averages 9.773 on the year. Richardson averages 9.731.
*Richardson led the Bruin team with six beam victories. Comforte was second with three.
*Richardson's big skills include two front aerials to a backhandspring-swing-down and a switch leap to two straddle jumps. She has also performed a handstand mount to two layouts.
*Comforte's routine is packed with tricks. Amongst her skills are a stag jump mount, side somersault, switch leap to one-armed backhandspring, beat jump connected to a sheep jump and a backhandspring/layout.
*Richardson won the NCAA beam title in 2003 as a freshman, scoring a 9.938. She placed fourth on the event in 2005.
*Richardson won the beam title at the 2001 Canadian national championships and was the Commonwealth Games beam champion in 2002.

Floor:
*Richardson ranks ninth in the nation on floor with an RQS of 9.905.
*Richardson has scored five perfect 10s on floor in her career (Feb. 2, 2003; Mar. 29, 2003; Feb. 1, 2004; Feb. 22, 2004, Mar. 20, 2004). (View Richardson floor routines from each year: 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003)
*Richardson's season-high is 9.95, set Feb. 19 against Arizona State, Cal State Fullerton and UC Davis. Her season average is 9.787.
*Comforte's season-high is 9.9, set Mar. 5 against Stanford/San Jose State. She averages 9.715 on the year.
*Richardson led the Bruin team with eight floor victories.
*Richardson's tumbling passes are double layout; front handspring/front full/pike front; and double pike.
*Comforte opens with an Arabian double front and has varied her other tumbling passes. She has performed throughout various parts of the season some combination of a front double twist/punch front, a front handspring/front layout/front layout half/switch ring, and a double pike for her last two passes.
*Richardson placed fifth on floor at the 2003 NCAA Championships and 12th in 2005. She won two Pac-10 floor titles in 2003 and 2004 with perfect 10s.

All-Around:
*Richardson ranks third in the nation with an RQS of 39.525. Comforte ranks 11th with a 39.410.
*Richardson leads UCLA with eight all-around wins, including the NCAA South Central Regional title that earned her a spot in the NCAA Championships. Comforte, who placed third at the regional, has one all-around win, Mar. 5 against Stanford/San Jose State.
*Richardson's career-high all-around score is 39.85, set Jan. 10, 2004. Her season-high is 39.575, set Feb. 10 at Cal. She averages 39.254 on the year.
*Comforte's career-high all-around score is 39.525, set Mar. 5 against Stanford/San Jose State. Her season average is 39.121.
*Richardson placed third in the all-around at the NCAA Championships in 2003 with a 39.525 and was tied for fourth in 2004 with a 39.575.

NCAA Notes --
*UCLA ranks second amongst all schools with 25 individual titles. Georgia leads all teams with 26, and Utah is third with 22.
*The last time an individual qualifier won the NCAA all-around title was in 1995 when Kentucky's Jenny Hansen won the last of her three all-around titles. She won all eight of her NCAA titles as an individual qualifier. Oklahoma's Kelly Garrison-Steves also won two all-around titles competing as an individual in 1987 and 1988.
*The first event specialists ever to win an NCAA title was Larissa Fontaine of Stanford, who tied for first on vault with Florida's Susan Hines in 1998. Marny Oestreng of Bowling Green (1999) and Courtney Bumpers of North Carolina (2005) also accomplished this feat, winning as event specialists on floor exercise.
*In addition to Kate Richardson and Tasha Schwikert, there are three other former NCAA champions competing at the national meet - three-time champion Ashley Miles from Alabama (2003, 2004 vault; 2004 floor), 2004 balance beam champion Ashley Kelly from Arizona State, and 2005 uneven bars champion Terin Humphrey from Alabama.

In The Rankings - UCLA finished the regular season tied with Michigan for ninth in the national rankings, which are based on Regional Qualifying Score (RQS). Individually, senior Kate Richardson ranks third in the nation in the all-around (39.525) and is in the Top 10 on all four events, checking in at fifth on beam (9.91) and ninth on vault (9.9), bars (9.895), and floor (9.905). Freshman Kristina Comforte ranks 11th in the all-around (39.410) and is sixth on bars (9.9) and 10th on beam (9.885).

Richardson, Comforte Earn All-Pac-10 Honors - Kate Richardson and Kristina Comforte were each honored by the Pac-10 Conference this season. Richardson was selected the 2006 Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year and also earned first-team Academic All-Conference honors for the second consecutive year. She also received all-conference honors in the all-around, vault, beam and floor to bring her career total to a school-record 14 All-Pac-10 nods. Comforte was honored as an all-conference performer in the all-around. Another Bruin, Ariana Berlin, earned Co-Freshman of the Year honors.

Three Former Bruin Greats Nominated For Highest Honor - Former UCLA Gymnastics greats Jamie Dantzscher, Kristen Maloney and Kim Hamilton were amongst 10 athletes nominated for NCAA Most Outstanding Gymnast over the past 25 years. UCLA had the most honorees with three. Eight-time NCAA champion and three-time Honda Award winner Jenny Hansen of Kentucky was selected for the award.

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