UCLA Gymnasts Travel To Arizona, Host Utah This Weekend
Feb. 20, 2008
This Week -- Ninth-ranked UCLA (11-0) will compete twice this week, first traveling to Tucson, AZ for a dual meet with No. 17 Arizona on Friday, Feb. 22 at 7:30 pm MT. The Bruins return home for a Sunday, Feb. 24 dual meet against No. 2 Utah (6-0) in Pauley Pavilion at 2 pm PT. Fans who wear blue to Sunday's home meet will receive $2 off the price of admission, and the first 1,000 fans in blue will receive a Bruin foam paw.
Live Coverage -- UCLA will provide a free live video broadcast of the Sunday meet with Utah on UCLA All-Access, with Darren Preston and former U.S. Olympian and NCAA champion Steve McCain providing the call. Also available at UCLABruins.com are live stats.
In The Rankings -- With the national rankings now based on Regional Qualifying Score (RQS), UCLA dropped two spots to No. 9 with a RQS of 195.470. The Bruins rank fourth on beam (48.920), sixth on vault (49.105), ninth on bars (48.805) and 20th on floor (48.600).Individually, sophomore Anna Li continues to be ranked in the Top 20 in the all-around and on three events - No. 2 in the all-around (39.375), No. 3 on bars (9.880), No. 9 on floor (9.865) and No. 20 on beam (9.8). Redshirt freshman Brittani McCullough ranks No. 10 in the all-around (38.990) and on vault (9.860). Tasha Schwikert and Marci Bernholtz, who were both ranked last week, dropped out of the rankings because they did not compete enough times to earn a RQS.
A RQS is compiled by taking the top six regulars-season scores, a minimum of three coming in away meets, dropping the high and averaging the remaining five scores.
About The Wildcats -- Arizona is coming off a huge victory over rival Arizona State last weekend, scoring 195.925 to outpoint the Sun Devils, who recorded 195.725. The win was Arizona's first dual meet win in Tempe in 21 years. Senior Karin Wurm was named this week's Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week after winning the all-around with a personal-best 39.450, and setting or tying career-highs on bars (9.925) and floor (9.9).
The Bruins own a 51-10 overall record against Arizona (NCAA competition not included) but have not won a regular season meet in Arizona since Jan. 14, 2000. UCLA claimed two victories in the series last year, winning a home dual meet in January, 196.750-193.075, and taking first place at the Pac-10 Championships.
About The Utes -- Utah has finished second to Georgia at the last two NCAA Championships but claimed a small bit of revenge with a season-opening 196.3-196.2 home victory over the Gym Dogs. The Utes are currently ranked No. 2 with a RQS of 196.645 and are ranked in the Top 3 on all four events. Senior Ashley Postell leads the team with 20 indvidual victories on the year, including six on balance beam, where the defending NCAA champion is ranked No. 1 in the nation. Postell has won six-straight all-around competitions, dating back to last year. Utah has five other All-Americans on its squad, including 2006 NCAA uneven bars co-champion Kristina Baskett and 2007 NCAA vault runner-up Annie DiLuzio.
Utah holds a 21-2 regular season record against the Bruins, with UCLA's only two wins coming on Jan. 10, 2003 in Utah (197.225-196.75) and on Jan. 21, 2001 in Los Angeles (197.5-195.7). The two teams met last season in Utah's home opener, which the Utes won 196.325-195.975.
Big All-Around Battle Brewing -- Sunday's possible all-around matchup between UCLA's Anna Li, Tasha Schwikert and Brittani McCullough and Utah's Ashley Postell, Kristina Baskett and Daria Bijak promises to be a good one. Li is the highest-ranked of the six all-around stars, sitting at second with a RQS of 39.375, while McCullough is ranked 10th with a RQS of 38.990. The other four do not have enough meets to qualify for the rankings at this time. However, Postell has the highest overall season average with a 39.55, as well as the highest all-around score in the nation this year, 39.8. Li is second amongst this group with an average of 39.413. Baskett averages 39.29, Bijak 39.283, Schwikert 39.183 and McCullough 39.054. Li and Baskett both have season-highs of 39.6, while Schwikert is close behind with a 39.55. Both McCullough and Bijak own season-bests of 39.375.
These names have been synonymous with success at the NCAA Championships as well. Schwikert won the NCAA all-around title in 2005. Postell has placed second in the all-around at the last two championships, with a third-place finish to the Bruin duo of Schwikert and Kristen Maloney in 2005. Li placed fourth in the all-around as a freshman last year, and Baskett tied for the NCAA uneven bars title in 2006.
No Sophomore Slump For Li -- Sophomore Anna Li has been one of the most consistent athletes in the nation this season, averaging 39.412 in the all-around and holding a 39.375 RQS to rank second. And on top of her consistency, she continues to bring dazzling routines to the competition floor. In her last three meets, she has added a double layout to her floor exercise routine, scoring a high of 9.925 and earning first place marks twice. Li leads the Bruins with 15 individual victories, including five all-around wins in six meets and four victories each on bars and floor. At the IGI Chicago Style Meet on Feb. 8, she set a new career-high in the all-around with a 39.6 and on floor with a 9.925. Last weekend at Cal, she just missed out on a perfect 10 on uneven bars, scoring a career-high 9.975.
Li Named UCLA/Muscle Milk Student-Athlete of the Week -- After winning the all-around, uneven bars and floor exercise at Cal, Anna Li was named the UCLA/Muscle Milk Student-Athlete of the Week. Li scored 39.425 in the all-around, was near-perfect on uneven bars with a career-high 9.975 and earned 9.85 on floor exercise. She also captured third place on vault and fourth place on balance beam. Li is the first Bruin gymnast to win the award this year.
Jenkins, Church Make Season Debuts -- Sophomore Ashley Jenkins and freshman Shavahn Church made their season debuts at Cal last weekend after missing a month and a half with injuries. Jenkins, who broke her toe just before the season started, competed on balance beam and scored 9.35 after a fall on her flight series. Church, who had arthroscopic knee surgery in late December, did an exhibition uneven bars routine. Despite not doing a dismount, she scored 9.525.
Comforte May Return This Week -- Junior Kristina Comforte may be back in action this weekend on uneven bars. The two-time All-American injured her right knee on Jan. 27 during her floor exercise routine, suffering a bone bruise that has kept her out of competition since. The Bruins will certainly benefit from her return. Comforte holds a career-high of 9.95 and a season-best of 9.9 on the event.
Streaks -- Anna Li has competed in the all-around in every meet as a Bruin for a total of 22 career all-around performances. She averages 39.235 with a career-best of 39.6 set Feb. 8 ... Li has hit 84 of 88 career routines for a hit percentage of 95.5% (only falls coming on balance beam) and is a perfect 24-for-24 this season ... Li has never scored lower than 9.775 on uneven bars, averaging 9.883 for her career on that event ... Tasha Schwikert's fall on uneven bars on Jan. 27 snapped a streak of 59 consecutive hit routines. She has hit of 136 of 142 career routines (95.8%) ... Schwikert has hit 32 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 116 of 122 (95.1%) career routines without a fall and has competed in 34 consecutive meets ... The Bruins' streak of hit balance beam routines ended at 30 last weekend at Cal.
Freshmen Get In Mix -- The Bruin freshmen have been getting good experience early this season. Niki Tom has competed in four of six meets on the year, recording highs of 9.825 on vault and 9.85 on beam. She has also performed exhibition routines on the other two events. Tom has improved upon her beam scores in each of the last three meets, scoring 9.8 at Washington, 9.825 in Chicago and 9.85 at Cal to finish tied for second. Allison Taylor has also been improving her scores in the last three weeks, going from a high of 9.7 at Washington to 9.75 in Chicago and 9.8 at Cal. Marci Bernholtz averages 9.806 on balance beam, which ties for second-best on the team. She has a first-place showing at Fullerton and a second-place finish against Stanford. Mizuki Sato has competed on floor four times, twice hitting season-highs of 9.825. Sato placed third on floor at Fullerton with a 9.825 and 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. She also hit her exhibition beam routine in Las Vegas for a 9.5. Shavahn Church made her debut in an exhibition uneven bars performance at Cal, scoring 9.525 without a dismount.
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 five of six meets this year and has recorded three vault and two floor exercise victories. She is currently ranked 10th in the nation in both the all-around and vault. McCullough sat out the 2007 season after severing a tendon in her toe during a car accident in November of 2006.
TV Alert -- Los Angeles cable station LA36 will air the Bruins' Jan. 27 meet against Stanford this weekend. The broadcast will air on Friday, Feb. 22 at 3:00 and 8:00 pm and again on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 4:30 pm and 8:35 pm. Calling the action will be veteran broadcaster Randy Rosenbloom and Bruin senior Tasha Schwikert. LA36 can be found throughout the Los Angeles area on Time Warner Cable and other LA-affiliated cable stations, as well as online at www.la36.org. The station will also air Sunday's UCLA-Utah meet at a date to be determined.
Looking Ahead -- UCLA remains at home for a Sunday, Mar. 2 meet against No. 8 Oregon State. The meet is UCLA's Breast Cancer Awareness meet. The Bruins will wear leotards with pink accents.