Bruin Gymnasts Travel To Chicago For IGI Chicago Style Meet

Feb. 5, 2008

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This Week -- Ninth-ranked UCLA (7-0) puts its undefeated record on the line on Friday, Feb. 8 with a quad meet against No. 11 Stanford (1-2), No. 24 Illinois (1-3) and unranked Washington (1-3) at the IGI Chicago Style Meet. The meet will take place at Chicago's Navy Pier (Exhibition Hall - Michigan Ave.) at 7 pm CT and is part of a weekend-long multi-level invitational hosted by the Illinois Gymnastics Institute (IGI). This is the first-ever collegiate event at the Chicago Style Meet.

The meet will serve as a homecoming for two Bruin gymnasts from Illinois - Kristina Comforte (Burr Ridge/Lyons Township HS/IGI) and Anna Li (Aurora/Waubonsie Valley HS/Aerial Gymnastics). Three of the four teams competing have athletes who trained at IGI - Comforte for UCLA, Kim Kruk for Illinois, and Kelly Fee and Liz Tricase for Stanford.

Meet Format -- Friday's competition will be UCLA's third multi-team meet and second quad meet of the season. The Bruins will begin the meet on the uneven bars and rotating to the balance beam and floor exercise before ending the meet on vault. This is the same rotation the Bruins had when posting its season high 196.125 at Cal State Fullerton. Illinois, which is serving as the host school, will begin on vault. Stanford starts on balance beam, and Washington begins on floor exercise.

Live Coverage -- Live stats will be available at FightingIllini.com.

Da Chicago Bruins -- A pair of Chicago-area Bruins - junior Kristina Comforte and sophomore Anna Li - come to their hometown this weekend. Comforte, a two-time All-American, unfortunately will not be able to compete in Friday's meet due to a bone bruise on her right knee, suffered during her floor exercise routine on Jan. 27. Li, however, comes in as one of the nation's top gymnasts, ranking seventh in the all-around with a season average of 39.362. Li tied her season-best last week with a 39.45 but it wasn't enough to extend her three-meet winning streak in the all-around. The four-time All-American leads the Bruins with nine individual victories, including three each in the all-around and on floor exercise. She debuted a double layout on floor exercise last weekend at Washington and scored a career-high tying and meet-best 9.9.

In The Rankings -- UCLA improved its season average to 195.531 but dropped one spot to ninth in the national rankings. The Bruins rank fourth on beam (49.000), sixth on vault (49.106), 13th on bars (48.675) and 16th on floor (48.750).

Individually, sophomore Anna Li is ranked in the Top 25 in the all-around and on three events - No. 7 in the all-around (39.362), No. 10 on bars (9.862), No. 14 on floor (9.869) and No. 25 on beam (9.806). Redshirt freshman Brittani McCullough ranks No. 21 in the all-around (39.169) and No. 16 on vault (9.869). Also ranked are freshman Marci Bernholtz on beam (No. 7, 9.837) and senior Tasha Schwikert on vault (No. 5, 9.892).

And We Meet Again -- Two of the Bruins' three opponents at the Chicago Style meet are more than familiar faces. UCLA's last two meets have been dual meets against Stanford (Jan. 27) and Washington (Feb. 1), both of which were won by the Bruins, 195.050-195.025 over Stanford and 195.975-194.425 over Washington. The teams will meet for a third time on Mar. 29 at the Pac-10 Championships in Seattle. Also in Friday's meet is Illinois, who the Bruins have not faced in the regular season since 1994.

Last Time Out -- UCLA remained undefeated with a dual meet victory at Washington last Friday, 195.975-194.425. The Bruins swept the all-around standings and won every event, with Tasha Schwikert earning her first all-around title of the season with a season-best 39.5. Schwikert also won the vault with a season-high 9.925 and tied for first with Ariana Berlin on beam, with both hitting season-highs of 9.85. Anna Li placed second in the all-around with a season-high tying 39.45 to break her streak of three-straight all-around victories, but took first place on uneven bars (season-high 9.925) and floor exercise (career-high tying 9.9). Brittani McCullough placed third in the all-around with a 39.225 and recorded career-highs on bars (9.875) and beam (9.825). The Bruins posted season-highs on bars (49.175) and beam (49.15).

Streaks -- Anna Li has competed in the all-around in every meet as a Bruin for a total of 20 career all-around performances. She averages 39.208 with a career-best of 39.55 set Jan. 21, 2007 ... Li has hit 76 of 80 career routines for a hit percentage of 95% (only falls coming on balance beam) ... Li has never scored lower than 9.775 on uneven bars, averaging 9.875 for her career on that event ... Tasha Schwikert's fall on uneven bars on Sunday snapped a streak of 59 consecutive hit routines. She has hit of 130 of 136 career routines (95.6%) ... Schwikert has hit 30 straight vaults for 9.8 or better and has scored lower than 9.8 just once in her career (9.75) ... Ariana Berlin has hit 110 of 116 (94.8%) career routines without a fall and has competed in 32 consecutive meets ... The Bruins have hit 22 consecutive beam routines, all scoring 9.7 or better.

Tasha Schwikert Named Pac-10 Gymnast Of The Week -- Senior Tasha Schwikert earned her fourth career Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week honor after scoring the Pac-10's highest all-around total of the season, 39.5, at Washington. Schwikert recorded season-best marks on each of the individual events and placed first on vault (9.925), beam (9.85, tied with Ariana Berlin) and all-around. She also tied for second on uneven bars with a 9.875 and on floor exercise with a 9.85. Schwikert is the fourth Bruin in as many weeks to receive Conference honors. She joins Anna Li, who was the Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week during week one, and Marci Bernholtz and Jordan Schwikert, who were the Pac-10 Event Specialists of the Week during weeks two and three, respectively.

Freshmen Get In Mix -- The Bruin freshmen have been getting good experience early this season. Niki Tom has competed in three of four meets on the year, recording highs of 9.825 on vault and 9.8 on beam. She has also performed exhibition routines on the other two events. Last weekend at Washington, Tom earned her career-best with a 9.8 on beam to finish fifth overall. Allison Taylor has two meets on uneven bars under her belt and hit a season-best 9.675 at Fullerton. She has performed an exhibition in the other two meets and received an unofficial season-best of 9.7 last week at Washington. Marci Bernholtz, who had to sit out last week's meet due to illness, competed on bars in the opener and is averaging 9.837 on balance beam with a first-place showing at Fullerton and second-place finish against Stanford. Mizuki Sato has competed on floor twice and placed third at Fullerton with a 9.825. Sato also had one of the meet's top scores on balance beam, earning a 9.8 in an exhibition performance. Talia Kushynski competed on floor exercise at Fullerton and scored 9.675 in her competition debut. Kushynski hit her exhibition beam routine in Las Vegas for a 9.5. UCLA's sixth freshman, Shavahn Church, remains out after undergoing successful arthroscopic knee surgery in December.

Happy Returns For McCullough -- Redshirt freshman Brittani McCullough has seen big success so far this season after a lengthy absence due to injury. McCullough, competing for the first time since the 2005 USA Championships, has taken placed in the Top 3 in the all-around in all four meets this year and has recorded victories on floor in Las Vegas and on vault in two of three meets. She is currently ranked 21st in the nation in the all-around and 16th on vault. McCullough sat out the 2007 season after severing a tendon in her toe during a car accident in November of 2006.

Berlin Rod-Free -- Another Bruin coming back from surgery is junior Ariana Berlin, who underwent a complicated but successful surgery in May to remove the titanium rod that has been in her leg since a 2001 car accident. Berlin had competed with the rod in her leg for the past two seasons and was limited in training because of it. She competed in the all-around in the season opener, performing in the leadoff position on all four events. Berlin tied for second on bars with a 9.85 and added scores of 9.775 on vault and 9.725 on beam. She had one of her most successful leadoff performances to date at Washington last weekend, scoring a 9.85 on beam that not only set the tone for a season-best team score of 49.15 but also held up for her first individual event victory of the season.

About The Bruins -- Five-time NCAA champion and defending Pac-10 champion UCLA is coached by four-time national coach of the year Valorie Kondos Field. The Bruins return four All-Americans from last year's squad - 2005 NCAA all-around champion and 2000 U.S. Olympian Tasha Schwikert, 2006 NCAA vault runner-up and two-time All-American Kristina Comforte, 2005 balance beam All-American Jordan Schwikert and four-time All-American Anna Li. Also returning is 2006 Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year Ariana Berlin, junior Melissa Chan, senior Natalie Padilla and sophomore Ashley Jenkins. In all, UCLA returns eight athletes who competed at the NCAA Championships last season, along with redshirt freshman Brittani McCullough.

The Bruins bring in a talented freshman class of six who will provide a much-needed depth to the squad. The freshman class is a strong mix of Elite and Level 10 gymnasts - two-time World Championships competitor Marci Bernholtz, 2005 Worlds competitor Shavahn Church, 2003 USA Championships competitor Allison Taylor, 2007 Level 10 National bronze medalist Mizuki Sato, 2007 Level 10 Top 5 finisher Niki Tom and Level 10 regional competitor Talia Kushynski.

With a squad 15-deep, the Bruins have strength in numbers for the first time in a few years, and UCLA will take advantage of that depth as it goes through the regular season in preparation for the post-season, Line-ups are expected to be shuffled continually in order to rest key athletes and give the freshmen more experience, and the battle to make the line-up will give each athlete an added competitive edge.

Bruins Sign Top-Level Recruiting Class For 2009 -- The Bruins received national letters of intent during the early signing period from three standout Level 10 gymnasts. Joining UCLA for the 2009 season will be three-time Level 10 national all-around champion Vanessa Zamarripa of Shiloh, IL (Midwest Twisters/O'Fallon HS); 2007 Level 10 national vault champion and all-around runner-up Kaelie Baer of Columbus, IN (DeVeau's/Columbus East HS); and three-time Level 10 national qualifier Tauny Frattone of Lake Forest, CA (Olympic Gymnastics Academy/El Toro HS). Also in next year's freshman class is 2006 World Championships bronze medalist Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs of Toronto, Canada, who signed last spring and is deferring enrollment until Fall 2008.

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