UCLA To Defend Pac-10 Championship Mar. 29 In Seattle

March 25, 2008

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This Week -- Eighth-ranked UCLA (14-4) will head to Seattle, Wash. for the 2008 Pac-10 Conference Championships. The Bruins are the defending champions and have won a Pac-10 record 13 team titles in 21 years. The Championships will take place at the Bank of America Arena on the University of Washington campus on Saturday, Mar. 29 at 4 pm.

Live Coverage -- Live scoring will be available at gohuskies.com. The meet will be televised on a delayed basis by Fox Sports Net. Providing the call will be Jim Watson and 1996 Olympic gold medalist Amanda Borden.

Rotation Order -- The Bruins will have the Olympic order at the championships, beginning on a bye before vault. UCLA begins competition in the second rotation on vault. After vault, the Bruins will have another bye, then move to bars, beam, another bye and then will end on floor exercise in the seventh and final rotation. Oregon State begins on vault, Stanford on a bye before bars, California on bars, Washington on beam, Arizona on a bye before floor, and Arizona State on floor. The rotation order for the championships was determined by blind draw a year prior to the meet.

Pac-10 Championship History -- With 13 Pac-10 titles (1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007), UCLA has won the most conference championships. Oregon State (1991, 1992, 1994, 1996) and Stanford (1998, 2001, 2004, 2006) are the only other teams to win Pac-10 titles. UCLA and Stanford have dominated in the last 11 years, however, with the Bruins winning seven and Stanford four in that span.

UCLA has dominated in the individual championships as well, with a conference-best 67 individual championships. The Bruins have been especially dominant in the all-around, winning 16 titles, including 10 in the last 11 years (includes ties). UCLA gymnasts have won 15 titles on bars, 14 on floor, and 11 on vault and beam.

Bruin senior Tasha Schwikert is the defending Pac-10 all-around and floor exercise champion. She also shared titles on vault with Washington's Ashley Houghting and on beam with teammate Anna Li. Schwikert has won six Pac-10 titles in her career.

Last Year At Pac-10s -- UCLA scored a season-best 197.2 to capture its 13th Pac-10 title last season. The Bruins came up big under pressure, scoring a 49.425 on balance beam in the final rotation to clinch the victory. Leading Stanford by just .150 heading into the final rotation, Stanford looked to have an edge, finishing on vault while the Bruins closed on beam. The Cardinal put the heat on the Bruins with a 49.325, which gave UCLA little room for error. But a 9.825 leadoff routine, two 9.85 scores and a pair of 9.95s later, and the Bruins had clinched the title. Tasha Schwikert won the all-around and at least a share of three event titles and was named the Pac-10's Gymnast of the Year.

Conference Awards To Be Handed Out - Conference awards for Gymnast of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Coach of the Year will be handed out at the conclusion of the meet. Last season, UCLA's Tasha Schwikert earned Gymnast of the Year honors, giving the Bruins 11 consecutive Gymnast of the Year awards (Kate Richardson in 2006, Kristen Maloney in 2005, Jeanette Antolin in 2004, Onnie Willis in 2003, Jamie Dantzscher in 2002, Mohini Bhardwaj in 2001, Heidi Moneymaker in 2000, Kiralee Hayashi in 1999, Stella Umeh in 1998 and Leah Homma in 1997). In all, Bruins have won this award 16 times in 21 years. Head coach Valorie Kondos Field has won Pac-10 Coach of the Year three times (1995, 2000, 2003). UCLA has produced four conference Freshmen of the Year - Ariana Berlin in 2006 (shared with Jami Lanz of Oregon State), Tasha Schwikert in 2005, Kate Richardson in 2003 and Doni Thompson in 2000.

In The Rankings -- UCLA remains at No. 8 in the national rankings, which is based on Regional Qualifying Score (RQS). The Bruins' RQS is 196.465. UCLA ranks second on uneven bars (49.305) and sixth on vault (49.315) and is tied for 11th on beam (49.055) and 15th on floor (49.025).

The Bruins have two gymnasts ranked in the Top 3 on uneven bars - No. 2 Anna Li (9.925), No. 3 Tasha Schwikert (9.915). Li is also ranked 12th in the all-around (39.375), while Tasha Schwikert ranks eighth on vault (9.915). Redshirt freshman Brittani McCullough, who is out for the year with a ruptured Achilles, ranks 13th on vault (9.895).

RQS is compiled by taking the top six regular-season scores, a minimum of three coming in away meets, dropping the high and averaging the remaining five scores.

Bruins Hit Season-High At Georgia -- Five gymnasts recorded career-highs, and three others earned season-highs as UCLA scored a season-high 196.925 in a dual meet loss at No. 1 Georgia (197.900) on Mar. 15. The Bruins did not have to count a fall throughout the whole meet and went 6-for-6 on balance beam en route to hitting a season-best 49.35 on the event. Recording career-bests were Mizuki Sato on floor (9.875), Ashley Jenkins on floor (9.9), Jordan Schwikert on floor (9.925), Niki Tom on beam (9.85) and Kristina Comforte on beam (9.9). Tasha Schwikert placed in the Top 3 on all three events in which she competed (tied for third on vault with a 9.925, tied for first with Anna Li on bars with a 9.9, and tied for third on beam with a 9.9).

Stormy Weather Was Bruin -- UCLA had its competition at Georgia delayed for half an hour due to a tornado watch in Athens that twice forced the team into the basement of its hotel across the street from Stegeman Coliseum. The Bruins were impervious to the storm and swept into the arena to hit their highest team score of the season.

McCullough Out With Season-Ending Achilles Injury -- Redshirt freshman Brittani McCullough is out for the rest of the season after suffering a ruptured left Achilles tendon on Mar. 9. McCullough suffered the injury on the takeoff of her opening tumbling pass and was unable to finish her routine. She had successful surgery last week. This is her third season-ending injury in as many seasons. In 2006, she had surgery on her right Achilles tendon, and last year, she was in a car accident and severed a tendon on her toe and had to redshirt the season.

Schwikerts Surging -- Seniors Tasha Schwikert and Jordan Schwikert have been on fire as of late. Although consistent all season, each has been building their scores as the season has progressed. Tasha is in vintage Tasha Schwikert 9.9 form, scoring 9.9 or better in 14 of her last 18 routines. She has improved her all-around total in each of her last four efforts, going from 39.55 on Feb. 8 and Feb. 24 to 39.625 on Mar. 2 and finally to a season-best 39.675 on Mar. 9. She has scored 9.925 or better on her last four floor routines, with a 9.975 coming on Mar. 2, and 9.9 or better on her last five vaults. Tasha has been the Bruins' most consistent gymnast, hitting 34 of her 35 routines on the year, including 30 in a row. Jordan, although often competing in the early half of the lineup, has scored 39.35 or better in three of her last four meets, with a season-best of 39.4 coming Mar. 9. She has scored 9.875 or better on floor in her last four meets, hitting a career-high tying 9.925 on Mar. 15 at Georgia. Jordan has five 9.9+ scores on the year and has hit 34 of her 36 routines on the year.

Comforte Back On Three Events -- Junior Kristina Comforte is continuing to make her way back into the competition lineup after injuring her right knee on Jan. 27 during her floor exercise routine. A bone bruise sidelined her for four meets before she returned to the competition lineup with a 9.825 on uneven bars Feb. 24 against Utah. On Mar. 2 against Oregon State, she returned to the vault lineup and stuck a big Yurchenko full for a 9.9 and then added a season-high tying 9.9 on uneven bars. Comforte added balance beam back to her repertoire on Mar. 15 at Georgia and scored a career-high tying 9.9 on her first routine back since the injury.

Perfect In The Pac -- UCLA finished a perfect 6-0 in Pac-10 Conference matchups this season. The Bruins also picked up additional victories over Oregon State, Stanford and Washington in invitational meets that did not count as conference matchups. Overall, UCLA is 9-0 against Pac-10 teams this season.

Bruins Have Best Start In 20 Years -- UCLA started the season 12-0 with wins in its first seven meets to get off to its best start since the 1988 team went 17-0 in the regular season. The 2008, 1988 and 1987 teams are the only teams in UCLA history to win their first seven meets of the year.

Church Makes Memorable Debut -- In her first ever competitive routine as a Bruin on Feb. 24, freshman Shavahn Church earned a 9.85 on the uneven bars, placing fourth overall against Utah. She scored 9.825 a week later against Oregon State. Church, who missed the first half of the season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in late December, was a 2005 World Championships competitor for Great Britain and 2006 Commonwealth Games medalist. She was also a member of the U.S. Junior National Team in 2003.

Bars Team Hardly Uneven -- With the return of Kristina Comforte and the addition of Shavahn Church, the Bruins are loaded on uneven bars. The bars team of Ariana Berlin, Brittani McCullough, Church, Jordan Schwikert, Comforte and Tasha Schwikert racked up a season-high total of 49.425 against Oregon State, with all six gymnasts scoring 9.825 or better and the final three all going 9.9+. That lineup did not even include Anna Li, who is ranked No. 2 in the nation on bars and sat out that meet with a concussion. Li has a career and season-high 9.975 and averages 9.862 on the year, with six scores of 9.9 or better.

The Bruins have scored 49+ on bars in the last eight meets. Career-highs from the Bruins on bars include a 10.0 from Tasha Schwikert, 9.975s from Berlin, Jordan Schwikert and Li, 9.95 from Comforte, and 9.85 from Church in just her first-ever collegiate routine. Also capable of 9.8+ scores are Allison Taylor (season-high 9.8 set at Cal) and two Bruins who have yet to see action this year on bars - Melissa Chan and Ashley Jenkins, both of whom have career-bests of 9.825.

Setting The Table -- Competing comfortably and more than capably in the leadoff position on most events is junior Ariana Berlin. The leadoff position is not typically one that is embraced by most competitors, but Berlin thrives in the role of setting the tone for the rest of her team and setting them up for big scores. In 19 of 34 leadoff routines this season, Berlin has recorded a score of 9.8 or greater, including a season-high 9.875 on vault at Georgia, a 9.875 on uneven bars at Cal that set the tone for a then-season-high 49.4 team score, a winning mark of 9.85 on balance beam at Washington that led to a season-high team score of 49.15, and a 9.8 on floor exercise that led to a then-season-high team mark of 49.275 on Feb. 8. The consistent Berlin averages 9.725 or higher on all four events and has hit all eight of her beam routines this year for 9.7 or higher. Perhaps Berlin's most impressive leadoff moment came last year at the NCAA Team Finals, when she scored a career-high 9.9 as the leadoff vaulter, helping the Bruins capture fourth place.

Freshmen Get In Mix -- The Bruin freshmen have been making big contributions this season. Mizuki Sato is a regular in the Bruins' floor lineup and has twice recorded season-bests of 9.875. She also had a big mark in an exhibition beam performance at Arizona, scoring 9.825. Niki Tom has competed in seven of 11 meets on the year, recording highs of 9.825 on vault and floor and 9.85 on beam. At Georgia, she came in as a late sub on floor and scored 9.775 and then tied her career-high on beam with a 9.85. Allison Taylor has posted a high of 9.8 on bars and got her first taste of action on floor exercise at Arizona. Marci Bernholtz has a high of 9.875 on the balance beam with a first-place showing at Fullerton and a second-place finish against Stanford. 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 collegiate debut on the uneven bars against Utah Feb. 24 and scored 9.85 to place fourth. Church is averaging 9.825 after three routines.

Streaks -- Tasha Schwikert has hit 30 routines in a row and 34 of 35 this season ... Dating back to last year, Schwikert has hit 93 of her last 94 routines ... In her career, she has hit 154 of 160 routines (96.3%) without a fall ... Schwikert has also hit 37 straight vaults for 9.8 or better and has scored lower than 9.8 just once in her career (9.75) ... Younger sister Jordan Schwikert has been just as consistent this year, hitting 34 of 36 routines ... Ariana Berlin has competed in 39 straight meets and has hit 134 of 140 career routines (95.7%) without a fall ... Anna Li's streak of 22 straight meets competing in the all-around ended Feb. 22 when she did only two events at Arizona ... The Bruins had a streak of hit balance beam routines end at 30 on Feb. 17 at Cal. UCLA has hit 6-for-6 on beam in six of 11 meets this year, including its last, at Georgia.

Schwikert To Be Inducted Into USAG Hall Of Fame -- Senior Tasha Schwikert will be inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame this summer as a member of the 2003 U.S. Women's World Championships Team. She was the team captain of the 2003 U.S. squad that won the country's first-ever team gold medal at the World Championships. Schwikert, who was also a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team and a two-time U.S. all-around champion, is the first UCLA woman to be inducted in the USAG Hall of Fame.

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