UCLA Aims For Sixth NCAA Gymnastics Championship

April 23, 2007

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UCLA At NCAA Championships - NCAA Southeast Regional champion UCLA (15-6) will compete for a sixth national title at the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships, which will be held Apr. 26-28 in Salt Lake City, UT. UCLA begins competition on Thursday, April 26 at 7:00 pm MT in the evening team preliminary session at the Huntsman Center. The Bruins will battle host Utah, Stanford, Michigan, Denver and LSU for three spots in the NCAA Super Six Team Finals. Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Nebraska, Oregon State and Oklahoma will meet in the afternoon session at 1:00 pm MT.

Competition Order - The three-day competition begins on Thursday, Apr. 26 with two sessions (1:00 pm and 7:00 pm MT) of preliminary team competition. The Top 3 teams from each Thursday session will advance to the team finals (The 'Super Six'), which will begin at 7:00 pm on Friday, Apr. 27. The individual event finals competition will be held Saturday, Apr. 28 at 7:00 pm. The all-around champion and individual event finalists will be determined during the preliminary competition. Individuals qualify for event finals by placing in the top four (including ties) of that particular event during their own preliminary session.

The Championship Field - Competing for the NCAA team championship will be regional winners UCLA, Utah, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Stanford, as well as regional runners-up LSU, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Denver, Michigan and Oregon State.

Rotation Order - The Bruins will begin the meet on balance beam and close on uneven bars. The rotation order, which was determined by blind draw by the NCAA, is a somewhat unfamiliar one for the Bruins, who have not begun a meet on beam since winning the 2004 Regionals in Raleigh, NC. Beam was no trouble for the Bruins that night, as they scored 49.425 despite a fall. The last time the Bruins started on beam at the NCAA Championships was 2003, and they hit six-for-six to score 49.25, en route to a second-place showing in the evening session of the team prelims.

Live Coverage - Live scoring will be available at utahutes.com. The meet will be televised by CBS on Saturday, May 12 from 1-3 pm PT. Tim Brando and Olympic gold medalist Amanda Borden will call the action.

Quest For 100 - The Bruins are not only seeking its sixth NCAA gymnastics title but the school's 100th NCAA Championship. The gymnastics team is the fifth UCLA squad to advance to the semifinal round of its respective Championships this school year (men's soccer reached the championship game, and women's soccer, women's volleyball and men's basketball reached the semifinals). UCLA's current total of 99 NCAA titles leads the nation.

UCLA's NCAA Championship History - The Bruins have won five NCAA gymnastics titles, including four this decade. UCLA's titles were won in 1997 at Florida, 2000 at Boise State, 2001 at Georgia, 2003 at Nebraska and 2004 at UCLA. This is UCLA's 23rd overall appearance in the 26 NCAA Championships. The Bruins have advanced to the Super Six every year they have qualified for the Championships in its current format.

Individual NCAA History - A total of 13 Bruins have won 26 NCAA titles to rank second behind only Georgia (29) 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; 2006 floor), 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 nine years and three titles in four of the last six years. UCLA has won a team or individual title every year since 1997 and has won more individual titles in the last 10 years (19) than any other team.

Schwikert Looks To Reclaim All-Around Title - UCLA junior Tasha Schwikert will attempt to reclaim the NCAA all-around title she won in 2005 as a freshman. Schwikert was unable to defend her title a year ago when she qualified only as a vault specialist. Other former NCAA champions competing at the national championships are three-time champion Courtney Kupets from Georgia (2006 all-around, bars, beam), 2006 uneven bars co-champion Kristina Baskett from Utah, and 2005 uneven bars champion Terin Humphrey from Alabama. Kupets and Schwikert will both attempt to become just the sixth gymnast in NCAA history to earn multiple all-around titles. The five who have done it in years past are Megan McCunniff of Utah (1984-85), Penney Hauschild of Alabama (1985-86), Kelly Garrison-Steves of Oklahoma (1987-88), Jenny Hansen of Kentucky (1993-95) and Kim Arnold of Georgia (1997-98).

NCAA Championship Notes
*Only four teams have ever won the NCAA title in the 25 years of the Championships - Utah (9), Georgia (7), UCLA (5) and Alabama (4).
*Nine schools return from the 2006 NCAA Championships, including five Super Six teams - Georgia (1st place), Utah (2nd), Alabama (3rd), Florida (4th) and Nebraska (5th). The other returning qualifiers are Michigan (7th), LSU (8th), Oklahoma (10th) and Oregon State (11th). The 2006 qualifiers that did not qualify in 2007 are Iowa State (6th), Arizona State (9th) and Arkansas (12th). UCLA returns after a one-year absence. Stanford returns for the first time since 2004, and Denver makes its first appearance since 2001.
*Eleven of the Top 12 seeds qualified for the NCAA Championships. The only Top 12 seed that did not advance was No. 11 Penn State, which was edged out by No. 14 Denver.
*UCLA ranks second amongst all schools with 26 individual titles. Georgia leads all teams with 29. Utah is third with 23.
*The Bruins have won more individual titles in the last 10 years (19) than any other team. The next closest team is Georgia with 12.
*UCLA has won either a team or an individual NCAA title in each of the last 10 years.
*This is the eighth time Utah has hosted the NCAA Championships. The Utes have won at home four times, most recently in 1994. The last time Utah hosted, in 1999, the Utes failed to reach the Super Six, finishing seventh overall. Georgia won in 1999, beating out second-place Michigan by three-tenths.
*UCLA's highest finish at a Utah-hosted NCAA Championships is third, in both 1987 and 1988. The Bruins were fifth in Salt Lake City in 1999 after winning their preliminary session.
*The host team has won the NCAA Championships just twice in the last 10 years (UCLA in 2004 and Alabama in 2002) and nine times overall in the 25 years of the Championships.

UCLA vs. 2007 Field - The Bruins have matched up against seven of the 12 teams this year, defeating Georgia and LSU, going 1-1 against Denver and Oregon State and 1-2 against Stanford, and losing once at Utah and at Alabama. The Bruins' last visit to the Huntsman Center on Jan. 12 saw UCLA take a slim lead over Utah heading into the last rotation, but the Utes reclaimed the lead on the final event and won, 196.325-195.975.

Prior NCAA Experience - With just four upper-classmen on the squad, this will be the first NCAA Championships experience for many of the Bruins. Only senior Ashley Peckett, juniors Tasha Schwikert and Jordan Schwikert and injured sophomore Kristina Comforte have competed at the NCAAs. Peckett helped the Bruins win the 2004 title, contributing marks on 9.85 or better on vault, bars and floor. She also competed on three events at the 2005 Championships. Peckett has never scored lower than 9.8 at the NCAA Championships. The Schwikerts both competed in the all-around in both days of the 2005 Championships. Tasha won the all-around in 2005 and qualified for the event finals on all four events, while Jordan earned second-team All-America honors on beam. Tasha also competed at the 2006 Championships as a vault specialist but did not qualify for the event finals. Comforte competed at the 2006 NCAA Championships as an individual all-around qualifier and placed third in the evening session to earn first-team All-America honors. She also took home second place on vault at the event finals.

In The Rankings - UCLA finished the regular season tied for No. 8 in the national rankings with a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) of 196.600. The Bruins rank third on vault (49.370), fifth on uneven bars (49.285) and eighth on balance beam (49.130) and floor exercise (49.200). Junior Tasha Schwikert is the only gymnast in the nation to be ranked in the Top 15 on every event and the all-around. Schwikert is third in the all-around (39.525), vault (9.945) and beam (9.920), ninth on floor (9.910) and 11th on bars (9.900). Freshman Anna Li is tied for 18th in the all-around (39.375) and 11th on uneven bars (9.900). Junior Jordan Schwikert moved into the Top 25 on vault, tying for 25th (9.880).

Bruins Win Regional To Gain NCAA Berth - Needing a Top 2 finish to earn a trip back to the NCAA Championships, UCLA placed first at the NCAA Southeast Regional in West Virginia, edging second-place LSU, 195.975-195.950. The Bruins pulled ahead by over half a point after the first three events and held on despite two last-minute substitutions on floor. Janelle Dantzscher subbed in for Ariana Berlin and scored 9.75 in the leadoff position, and Ashley Jenkins came in for Jordan Schwikert and added a 9.8 for the Bruins' second-highest floor score of the night. The victory was clinched after Tasha Schwikert's 9.9 on floor exercise. Schwikert won the all-around (39.525) and tied for first on beam (9.825) and floor (9.9) to bring her career total to eight regional titles, tying the school record held by Jamie Dantzscher. Anna Li won the uneven bars (9.950) and tied for first on beam (9.825).

UCLA Wins 13th Pac-10 Title - Number 13 was anything but unlucky for the Bruins, who captured their 13th Pac-10 title on March 31. UCLA recorded a season-high 197.2 to win the title over 2006 champion Stanford, which scored 196.95 to place second. The Bruins had a slim .15 lead over the Cardinal heading into the final rotation, with Stanford on vault and UCLA on the dreaded beam. Stanford put the heat on UCLA with a 49.325, which gave the Bruins little room for error. Ariana Berlin led off with strong routine that merited 9.825. Ashley Peckett followed with a super-steady 9.85. Ashley Jenkins fell on her side somi, putting the pressure on the rest of the beam competitors. Jordan Schwikert seemed unfazed, nailing her routine for a 9.85. Li followed that up with a career-high 9.95, leaving Tasha Schwikert needing just a 9.725 to clinch the win. The junior showed why she was voted the Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year, closing it out with a 9.95 to claim the victory. As a team, the Bruins scored a season-best 49.425 on the event.

Tasha Schwikert won the all-around with a season-high 39.75 and also claimed victory on vault (shared with Washington's Ashley Houghting), beam (shared with teammate Anna Li) and floor. In addition to sharing the beam title with Schwikert, Li tied for third in the all-around with a 39.4.

Schwikert Honored As West Region, Pac-10 Gymnast Of The Year - Junior Tasha Schwikert was honored as the West Region and Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year. Schwikert has been dominating in 2007, a year after missing nearly all of 2006 with shoulder surgery, winning six straight all-around titles, including the NCAA Southeast Regional and Pac-10 all-around crowns. Schwikert averages 9.845 or higher on all four events (9.9+ on vault and floor) and 39.456 in the all-around. She has captured 35 individual victories on the year and has hit 48 of 49 routines on the year and 47 in a row.

Four Bruins Named To All-Conference Team - Anna Li, Jordan Schwikert, Tasha Schwikert and Michelle Selesky were named to the Pac-10 All-Conference team. Tasha Schwikert and Li received honors in the all-around, while Selesky and Jordan Schwikert were named on the vault and uneven bars, respectively. The All-Conference teams consist of the top six all-around competitors, plus the top three competitors in each individual event not amongst the all-around selections. A gymnast's score is determined by a combination of 50 percent regional qualifying score (entire season composite) and 50 percent Pac-10 Conference Championship score.

Six Bruins Earn Pac-10 All-Academic Honors - Half of UCLA's team earned Pac-10 All-Academic honors in 2007. Senior Ashley Peckett led the way with a first-team honor after posting a 3.75 cumulative GPA in Physiological Science. It is Peckett's third career Pac-10 All-Academic honor; she was a second-team honoree last season and an honorable mention selection as a sophomore. Senior Michelle Selesky received second-team acclaim for her first career honor. She has recorded a 3.73 cumulative GPA in Political Science. Receiving honorable mention acclaim were sophomores Ariana Berlin, Kristina Comforte and Janelle Dantzscher and junior Tasha Schwikert. To be eligible for selection to the academic team, a student-athlete must be a sophomore or above, have a minimum 3.0 overall grade-point average and be either a starter or significant contributor.

Improving Depth Perception - In February, the Bruins' injury situation was so bleak that only five gymnasts were competing on floor exercise. However, the Bruins have gotten healthier in the post-season and now have the necessary depth to field a strong six-person lineup. Tasha Schwikert, who did not compete on floor for two months due to an Achilles strain, has been back in the all-around since the Pac-10 Championships, which she won with a season-high 39.75. On Mar. 25, Janelle Dantzscher returned from a nearly two-month absence for a stress fracture in her foot, competing on floor exercise at Stanford. She subbed in at Regionals on floor and earned a 9.75. Ashley Jenkins' hyper-extended elbow is healing, and she should be available to compete on uneven bars. In addition, the Bruins were bolstered by the return of Melissa Chan, who was reinstated to the team on Mar. 12 and hit a strong balance beam routine at the NCAA Regionals, scoring 9.75 to tie for eighth. The Bruins' new-found depth was huge in their Regional victory, as minor injuries sidelined Jordan Schwikert (hamstring) on beam and floor and Ariana Berlin (leg/ankle) on floor.

Elite Talent - UCLA's 12-woman roster includes seven former National Team members. Leading the way is 2000 U.S. Olympian and 2003 World gold medalist Tasha Schwikert, who has six U.S. National titles to her credit (all-around and bars in 2001; all-around, bars, floor in 2002; bars in 2004). Ashley Peckett is a two-time World Championships competitor for Canada and the 2002 Canadian National beam champion. Kristina Comforte and Brittani McCullough were both members of the 2006 U.S. National Team, and Ashley Jenkins (2003), Jordan Schwikert (2002) and Melissa Chan (2001) were U.S. junior national team members.

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 aired 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.

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 discovered in February, and she had successful surgery in March. 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.

Head Coach Valorie Kondos Field - In her 17th season as head coach of the Bruins, Valorie Kondos Field has positioned her team as one of the premier programs in collegiate gymnastics. Since 1997, Kondos Field has led UCLA to five NCAA titles, nine Regional titles and seven Pac-10 Championships and has been voted the national coach of the year by her peers four times. Kondos Field has not only recruited some of the nation's brightest talent to Westwood, but, perhaps more impressively, she has nurtured several of these recruits into successful post-collegiate elite careers. Kate Richardson became just the second female gymnast to compete at the Olympics as a collegiate athlete in 2004, and Bruin alumna Mohini Bhardwaj was captain of the U.S. silver medal-winning team at the 2004 Olympics.