Gymanstics Returns Home For John Wooden Challenge Sunday Afternoon

Feb. 20, 2007

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Bruins Host John Wooden Challenge - The sixth-ranked UCLA Gymnastics team (5-4) will host 11th-ranked Denver (6-5), California (0-5) and Cal State Fullerton (7-2) in the John Wooden Challenge on Sunday, Feb. 25. The meet will take place in Pauley Pavilion at 2 pm. The second annual John Wooden Challenge will honor all competing teams' academic and athletic achievements, as well as Coach Wooden himself.

Live Coverage - Live scoring and streaming video will be provided at uclabruins.com. Due to the nature of the quad meet, the video coverage will be focused on UCLA, with others shown as time permits. The meet will also be televised on a delayed basis on local Time Warner cable station LA36 at a date yet to be announced.

In The Rankings - With the national rankings now based on Regional Qualifying Score (RQS), UCLA has moved up to No. 6 with a RQS of 195.930. The Bruins rank fifth on vault (49.165), uneven bars (49.175) and floor exercise (49.055) and 10th on balance beam (48.600).

Individually, the Bruins have six gymnasts in the Top 25 national rankings. Tasha Schwikert joins Georgia's Katie Heenan as one of just two gymnasts in the nation who rank in the Top 10 on every event and the all-around. Schwikert is No. 3 in the all-around (39.335) and vault (9.920), No. 2 on floor exercise (9.890), No. 4 on uneven bars (9.895) and No. 8 on balance beam (9.850). Anna Li ranks No. 10 in the all-around (39.135), No. 7 on uneven bars (9.875) and No. 18 on floor exercise (9.830). Ashley Peckett is tied for 14th on vault (9.845), and Michelle Selesky is tied for 23rd on floor (9.815). The Bruins have four gymnasts ranked in the Top 25 on uneven bars - No. 4 Tasha Schwikert, No. 7 Li, No. 17 Ariana Berlin (9.830) and No. 23 Jordan Schwikert (9.805).

Battered Bruins Impress Against Beavers - Despite a rash of injuries that has kept UCLA from competing at full-strength, the Bruins nevertheless turned in one of their best performances of the season in a 196.65-196.375 loss at Oregon State on Feb. 16. UCLA held the lead at the halfway mark after strong performances on bars and vault but let saw its lead shrink to just one-tenth of a point after competing short-handed on floor. The Bruins' five floor competitors needed to hit, and they did, earning a team score of 49.8. UCLA earned 49.8 on beam in the final rotation and had a chance to win, but Oregon State's final floor performer scored a 9.775 to give the Beavers the victory.

Senior Ashley Peckett stepped up to compete in the all-around for only the fifth time in her four-year career and earned a 39.25 to tie for second place with Ariana Berlin. Tasha Schwikert, who is limited to vault, bars and beam due to an Achilles strain, won all three of those events at Oregon State. Anna Li was questionable prior to the meet after injuring herself at Denver the week before but came through with a 39.2 all-around score and a first-place tie on bars.

Peckett Picks Up Slack - Long considered one of UCLA's most consistent performers, it was only natural to call upon Ashley Peckett to step in on balance beam with the Bruins short-handed last week. Although she had not competed beam since 2006 and had only competed on beam nine times prior in her four-year career, Peckett did not skip a beat, scoring a 9.775. She competed as normal on the other three events, scoring season-highs on vault (9.9) and floor (9.85). In just her fifth ever all-around appearance, she scored 39.25 to tie for second place. Peckett has hit 84 of her last 85 routines without a fall, including all 25 routines this season.

Follow The Lead-Off - As another of UCLA's most consistent athletes, sophomore Ariana Berlin has been an ideal lead-off competitor on three of four events. Berlin starts the Bruins off on vault, beam and floor and has been setting her teammates up for big scores with solid scores of her own. Against Oregon State, she led off vault with a career-high tying 9.85, started off a stressful floor exercise set with another season-high mark of 9.775 and scored a leadoff 9.775 on beam to set the tone. In addition, she scored a season-high 9.85 on bars to record a career-high tying 39.25 in the all-around for the second-straight meet. In her career, Berlin has hit 75 of her 78 routines without a fall. This year, Berlin, whose training has been limited due to pain caused by the rod in her leg, is averaging 9.8 on vault and 9.809 on bars.

Tasha Schwikert Back To 2005 Form - Junior Tasha Schwikert is back to the form that brought her the NCAA all-around title in 2005. The two-time Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week has averaged a whopping 39.588 during her four-meet all-around winning streak. She has posted the top two all-around scores in the nation this year, a 39.7 vs. Arizona on Jan. 21 and a 39.675 at Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 19.

Nineteen of Schwikert's 29 scores this season (66%) have been 9.9 or higher, including 16 of her last 18 routines. She leads the team with averages of 39.396 in the all-around, 9.900 on floor, 9.897 on vault and 9.836 on beam. She also averages 9.819 on bars. Schwikert, a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team, missed nearly all of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery. She returned to competition in the last regular season meet of 2006 and also competed on three events in the Pac-10 and NCAA Regional meets. She qualified for the NCAA Championships on vault.

Jordan Schwikert Returns On Three Events - Junior Jordan Schwikert, who had been limited to just uneven bars in the Bruins' first five meets due to a hamstring injury, made her season debut on vault at Arizona State on Jan. 26. Schwikert made a more than successful return to the lineup, scoring a team-high 9.825. She also recorded a season-best 9.875 on the uneven bars, earning a 9.95 from one of the two judges. On Feb. 10 at Denver, she made her season debut on balance beam and competed on three events in that meet as well as the following meet at Oregon State. Schwikert ranks 23rd in the nation on bars.

Selesky Shines - Senior Michelle Selesky continues to bring big scores to the Bruins in 2007. The former walk-on had only seen competition time just five times prior to this season but has been not only a mainstay but a top contributor on vault and floor. In the season opener, she won the floor exercise with a 9.9 and tied for third on vault with a 9.825 to make the medals stand for the first time in her career. Both scores were, at the time, two-tenths higher than her previous career-bests. She continued her success the following week, twice scoring 9.825s on vault and earning a 9.825 on floor at Utah to tie for fourth. She improved her personal-best on vault at Cal State Fullerton, scoring a 9.85 to tie for third place and improved it again against Arizona, scoring a 9.9 to earn her first vault victory, tying with teammate Tasha Schwikert. Selesky has placed in the Top 3 on vault in four meets and currently ranks 23rd in the nation on floor.

Li Makes Stellar Debut - Freshman Anna Li made her Pauley Pavilion debut a memorable one, winning the all-around (39.0) and uneven bars (9.85) in her first collegiate meet on Jan. 6. Making the event even more special was the presence of her parents, Yuejiu Li and Jiani Wu, who had won Olympic team medals for China in the same arena at the 1984 Olympic Games. Li improved her all-around score the following week at Utah, scoring 39.2 to place fourth. She also placed second on beam with a 9.825. More career-highs were set at Fullerton on Jan. 19, as Li placed second in the all-around with a career-high 39.275. She also improved her personal-bests on vault (9.85 to tie for third), bars (9.875, second place) and beam (9.825 to tie for second). Li had an even better meet on Jan. 21 vs. Arizona, scoring a career-high 39.55 in the all-around to post the highest score by any freshman in the nation this year. She also won the uneven bars with a career-high 9.95 and placed third on vault (9.825), second on beam (career-high 9.9) and tied for second on floor (9.875). Li has four individual victories this year, including three on the uneven bars. She also ranks second on the team with 17 Top 3 placings.

Making The Most Out Of Injury - Freshman Ashley Jenkins has been held out of the lineup on bars and floor due to a hyper-extended elbow, but, ironically, the injury has brought her more success on balance beam. The Bruin coaches re-worked Jenkins' beam routine so as to not put any weight on her injured elbow, and the changes have brought out the best in Jenkins. She has scored career-highs of 9.8 in her last two meets with the new routine.

Padilla Providing Much-Needed Depth - Junior transfer Natalie Padilla has stepped in for her injured teammates with solid performances during the Bruins' last two meets. At Denver, she earned a career-high 9.725 on beam, a 9.6 on bars and 9.325 on floor in her first competitive routines of the season on those events. At Oregon State, she scored 9.725 on bars and a season-high 9.6 on floor to contribute to the team's second-highest team score of the season.

Dantzscher's Momentum Slowed By Injury - Sophomore Janelle Dantzscher's stress fracture in her foot could not have come at a worse time for her, as she has hit her stride in her last five competitions, averaging 9.84 on floor and 9.66 on beam. Dantzscher placed in the Top 3 on floor in her last four meets and has more Top 3 showings on floor than anyone on the team outside of Tasha Schwikert. Dantzscher scored a career-high 9.9 vs. Stanford on Jan. 15 and has placed second on the event in her last two consecutive meets. She was also coming off a season-best beam score of 9.725, set at Arizona State. Dantzscher is expected to be out another 1-2 weeks.

Comforte, McCullough Out For Season - Sophomore Kristina Comforte's long-time battle with ankle injuries has forced her out of competition for the year. An old fracture in her left ankle that has been causing her pain for the last four years was recently discovered, and she will sit out the rest of the year to heal. Comforte competed through the injury all of 2006 and earned first-team All-America honors in the all-around and on vault. She competed in six meets on balance beam this year, averaging 9.767, with a high of 9.825. Freshman Brittani McCullough, a 2006 U.S. National Team member, severed a tendon in her toe in a car accident in November and will redshirt the season.

Two Meets To Be Televised On LA36 - UCLA home meets on Feb. 25 (vs. California, Cal State Fullerton and Denver) and Mar. 4 (vs. Georgia) will be televised on a delayed basis on Los Angeles cable station LA36. The station can be found throughout Los Angeles on Time Warner Cable and other LA-affiliated cable stations. Check your local listings for air dates and times.

Ten-Year Anniversary - UCLA will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its first NCAA women's gymnastics title on Mar. 4 when the Bruins host Georgia in the home finale at 2 pm in Pauley Pavilion. Members of the 1997 squad will be in attendance and honored during the meet.

High-Level Recruiting Class To Join UCLA In 2008 - Head coach Valorie Kondos Field signed another strong recruiting class during the early signing period, inking 2006 World Championships competitor and 2004 Olympic alternate Marci Bernholtz from Unionville, Ontario, Canada (ASF Gymnastics); international elite and 2003 U.S. Championships competitor Allison Taylor from Dallas, Texas (WOGA); and three-time Level 10 National qualifier Mizuki Sato from Fair Oaks, Calif. (Technique Gymnastics).

'We are looking forward to the addition of Marci, Allison and Mizuki to an already nationally competitive squad,h said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. 'They will round out the depth on every event for us in the future and will certainly enable us to continue our yearly challenge for the national title.'

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