UCLA Concludes Regular Season Action At Stanford
March 19, 2007
UCLA vs. Stanford, Part II - The eighth-ranked UCLA Gymnastics team (9-5) will face off once again with fourth-ranked Stanford (10-3) on Sunday, Mar. 25 at Burnham Pavilion on the Stanford campus. The meet will take place at 2:00 pm. This will be the second of at least three meets featuring these two top Pac-10 schools. Stanford won the first matchup at UCLA on Jan. 15, 196.975-195.525. The teams will meet again on Mar. 31 at the Pac-10 Championships as Stanford attempts to defend its conference title.
Live Coverage - Live streaming video will be available free of charge at gostanford.com. Coverage will focus on Stanford. Live scoring updates will be provided at uclabruins.com.
In The Rankings - With UCLA off last weekend, several other teams vaulted ahead of the Bruins in the national rankings, dropping UCLA down two to No. 8 with a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) of 196.280. The Bruins rank fifth on vault (49.315) and uneven bars (49.250), seventh on floor exercise (49.200) and tied for ninth on balance beam (48.985). Stanford ranks fourth overall with a team RQS of 196.610. The Cardinal is third on beam (49.125), fourth on bars (49.280), sixth on floor (49.215) and 11th on vault (49.130).
Junior Tasha Schwikert is the only gymnast in the nation who is ranked in the Top 20 on every event and the all-around. Schwikert is 16th in the all-around (39.335), tied for third on vault (9.930) and beam (9.900), seventh on bars (9.900) and 13th on floor exercise (9.890). Freshman Anna Li is tied for 17th in the all-around (39.325) and No. 6 on uneven bars (9.900). Stanford's Carly Janiga is ranked 13th in the all-around (39.360), fifth on bars (9.910), and 22nd on floor (9.875).
Pride of the Pac - UCLA and Stanford have been the teams to beat in the Pac-10 Conference, with UCLA winning 12 conference titles and Stanford winning four. The two schools have dominated in the last 10 years, with UCLA winning six (2005, 2003, 2002, 2000, 1999 and 1997) and Stanford capturing four (2006, 2004, 2001 and 1998). The Cardinal won last year's title by just three-tenths of a point over the Bruins.
High-Li Regarded - Freshman Anna Li has had a highly successful freshman season, making major contributions to the Bruin squad. Li is currently ranked 17th in the nation in the all-around and sixth on uneven bars. She has six individual victories this year, including four on uneven bars and a pair of all-around wins against Washington in the season opener and at Alabama. Li's victory in her collegiate debut was extra special for her thanks to 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, who has competed on every event in every meet, has posted highs of 39.55 in the all-around, 9.85 on vault, 9.9 on balance beam and floor exercise and 9.95 on uneven bars.
Air Jordan - Junior Jordan Schwikert, who had been limited to just uneven bars in the Bruins' first five meets due to a hamstring injury, has seen much success since returning to all-around competition on Feb. 25. She placed third at the John Wooden Challenge with a 39.2 and scored a career-high 9.975 on uneven bars. Against Georgia on Mar. 4, she placed second in the all-around with a 39.425 and was subsequently named the Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week. Schwikert's all-around return was a welcome sight for the Bruins, as she was an All-Pac-10 all-around performer as a freshman. She holds a career-high all-around score of 39.5 and has career-bests of 9.925 or higher on all four events.
Schwikert Back To 2005 Form - Junior Tasha Schwikert is back to the form that brought her the NCAA all-around title in 2005. Although she has sat out floor exercise the last five meets to rest a strained Achilles, 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.
Twenty-four of Schwikert's 38 scores this season (63%) have been 9.9 or higher, including 21 of her last 27 routines. She leads the team with averages of 39.396 in the all-around, 9.900 on vault, 9.900 on floor and 9.838 on beam. She also averages 9.832 on bars. On the year, she has accumulated a team-high 26 individual victories. 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.
Follow The Lead-Off - As one of UCLA's most consistent athletes, sophomore Ariana Berlin has been an ideal lead-off competitor on three of four events. Berlin, last year's Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year, 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. Since her first all-around meet on Feb. 10, Berlin has recorded career-high all-around marks in every subsequent all-around appearance, starting with a 39.25 on Feb. 10 and 16, a 39.325 to win the John Wooden Challenge on Feb. 25 and a 39.425 to place third against Georgia. In addition to winning the John Wooden Challenge, Berlin also earned her first career 9.9+ score, shattering her career-high with a near-perfect 9.975 on uneven bars. She is averaging 39.313 in the all-around, second-best on the team, and has hit 84 of her 88 career routines (95%) without a fall. One of those four rare misses came while she crunched her ankle on vault at Alabama on Mar. 9. She had to scratch from her remaining events but should be available to compete on Sunday.
Peckett Picks Up Bruins - 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 due to injury, and she's not likely to hand back that all-around spot without a fight. 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 her first time out, scoring a 9.775 at Oregon State on Feb. 16. In just her fifth ever all-around appearance, she scored 39.25 to tie for second place. On Feb. 25, she recorded a season-high 9.9 on uneven bars to help the Bruins record a national season-best 49.7 on the event, and on Mar. 4, she scored a season-best 39.35 in the all-around and tied for first on floor with a season-high 9.925. She posted a season-best 9.8 on beam at Alabama and finished fifth overall with a 39.25 all-around mark. Peckett has hit 95 of her last 97 (98%) routines without a fall, including 36 of 37 this season.
Selesky Shines - Senior Michelle Selesky has brought big scores to the Bruins in 2007. The former Level 9 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. On Senior Day against Georgia on Mar. 4, Selesky had a story-book ending, winning the vault with a career-high 9.925. Selesky has placed in the Top 3 on vault in six meets, posting two wins.
Making The Most Out Of Injury - Freshman Ashley Jenkins has been held out of the lineup on bars the last five meets and sat out floor for two meets 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. Since the injury, she has scored three 9.8s, a 9.775 and a career-high 9.9 to place second against Georgia. She is averaging 9.815 on beam with her new routine. Jenkins returned to the floor exercise mat on Feb. 25 with another reworked routine and scored 9.55 and improved to a 9.775 on Mar. 4 and 9.825 on Mar. 9.
Padilla Providing Much-Needed Depth - Junior transfer Natalie Padilla has stepped in for her injured teammates with solid performances during the Bruins' last five meets. At Denver on Feb. 10, 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 on Feb. 16, 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. Padilla recorded another season-high on uneven bars on Feb. 25, earning a 9.75 to help the Bruins along to a national season-best 49.7 on the event. She stepped in for an injured Ariana Berlin on floor and beam at Alabama and scored 9.625 on floor.
Chan Returns To Squad - Sophomore Melissa Chan rejoined the UCLA gymnastics team on Mar. 12 after meeting criteria set by UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field for reinstatement to the team. Chan, who was not on the squad at the beginning of the school year, was one of the Bruinsf top balance beam performers as a freshman, tying for second place at the 2006 Pac-10 Championships with a career-best 9.95. She scored 9.8 or better on the event in seven of her eight meets and led the team with a 9.844 season average. Chan competed in the all-around five times, with a season-best 39.375 that gave her a first-place finish against Oregon State on Jan. 22, 2006. Prior to UCLA, she was a three-time Level 10 national all-around and vault champion and the 2000 U.S. Junior National vault champion.
Dantzscher's Momentum Slowed With Injury - Sophomore Janelle Dantzscher's stress fracture in her foot could not have come at a worse time for her, as she had 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. She 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 on Jan. 26, which was her last meet before the injury. Her status for this week's meet is questionable.
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.
Last Time Out - UCLA recorded a season-high road score of 196.475, but it was not enough to overtake host Alabama, which scored 197.225. The Bruins had to overcome an injury to Ariana Berlin in the second rotation. Berlin's hand slipped on the vault, and she crunched her ankle on the landing. UCLA did well to maintain composure on the event and, in fact, outscored Alabama on vault, 49.35-49.325. The Bruins scored 49.1 on both floor and beam, but the Tide countered with a 49.35 on beam and 49.475 on floor. Anna Li won the all-around with a 39.5 and won bars with a 9.925, while Tasha Schwikert tied for first on both vault and beam with scores of 9.9.
UCLA Upsets Georgia, Snaps 27-Meet Unbeaten Streak - Behind a season-high team score of 197.15, UCLA upset second-ranked and two-time defending champion Georgia on Mar. 4 in the Bruins' home finale. With Georgia posting a final team mark of 197.00, UCLA needed a 9.775 from freshman Anna Li on floor exercise to win the meet, and she came through with a career-high 9.9 to give UCLA the win by .15. It was a total team effort, with all eight Bruin competitors making big contributions. Jordan Schwikert placed second in the all-around with a season-high 39.45. Ariana Berlin recorded yet another career-high in the all-around with a 39.425. Li placed third in the all-around with a 39.4, and Ashley Peckett was fourth with a season-best 39.35. Ashley Jenkins contributed a career-high 9.9 on beam to tie for second. UCLA seniors Peckett and Michelle Selesky went out in style, with each winning an event title (Peckett tied for first on floor with a season-high 9.925, and Selesky won vault with a career-high 9.925). UCLA's victory snapped Georgia's 27-meet, 57-opponent unbeaten streak. The Gym Dogs had not lost a meet since placing second at the 2005 NCAA Regionals.
Setting The Bar - UCLA recorded a national season-best 49.7 on uneven bars on Feb. 25, en route to a 196.25 team score that enabled the Bruins to handily win the John Wooden Challenge over Denver, California and Cal State Fullerton. The Bruins counted no score lower than 9.9 on bars, with Ashley Peckett recording a season-high 9.9, Tasha Schwikert and Anna Li posting 9.925s, and Ariana Berlin and Jordan Schwikert earning career-high 9.975s. The 49.7 tied for the fourth-highest bars score in UCLA history.
Schwikert On Schwikert - Junior gymnast and aspiring sports broadcaster Tasha Schwikert provided color commentary on the delayed television broadcasts of the Bruins' quad meet against Denver, California and Cal State Fullerton and UCLA's dual meet victory over Georgia. After the meets, Schwikert joined Randy Rosenbloom in the studio to tape a TV broadcast that has been airing periodically on local Time Warner Cable station LA36 and on the LA36 website at www.la36.org. Schwikert has previous experience as a color commentator with WCSN for the 2005 and 2006 World Gymnastics Championships.
Looking Ahead - The Bruins will compete at the Pac-10 Championships on Mar. 31 in Tempe, AZ. The meet will take place at Wells Fargo Arena at 5:00 pm MT.
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).