UCLA Gymnastics Team Begins Post-Season At Pac-10 Championships

March 21, 2006

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UCLA At Pac-10 Championships - The 11th-ranked UCLA Bruins (16-5) will kick off post-season competition on Saturday, Mar. 25 at the Pac-10 Conference Gymnastics Championships. The Championships will take place at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, OR at 6:00 pm. The Bruins have won a Pac-10 best 12 titles overall, including three in the last four years.

Rotation Order - The Bruins drew their familiar post-season rotation of starting on floor and ending on a bye after beam. UCLA had that same draw at the NCAA Super Six Team Finals in 2005, 2004 and 2001, with the latter two years producing NCAA titles. After floor, the Bruins will have a bye, then vault, another bye, bars and beam before ending on a bye in the seventh and final rotation. The rotation order for the championships was determined by blind draw a year prior to the meet.

On Air - Fox Sports Net will televise the Championships on a delayed basis the following week. Jim Watson and Judy Corwin will call the action.

Live Coverage - Live scoring will be available at OSUBeavers.com.Pac-10 Championship History - With 12 Pac-10 titles (1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005), UCLA has won the most conference championships. Oregon State (1991, 1992, 1994, 1996) and Stanford (1998, 2001, 2004) are the only other teams to win the title. Bruins have dominated in the individual championships as well, with a conference-best 62 individual championships. The Bruins have been especially dominant in the all-around, winning 15 titles, including nine in the last nine years (includes ties). UCLA gymnasts have won 15 titles on bars, 13 on floor, 10 on vault and nine on beam.

Last Year At Pac-10s - The Bruins won the 2005 Pac-10 title with a score of 197.1 and dominated the individual competition, with Kristen Maloney and Tasha Schwikert sharing the all-around title with scores of 39.7. Maloney also won the vault (9.925), beam (9.95, tied with ASU's Ashley Kelly) and floor (9.975), while Schwikert won the bars with a perfect 10.

Richardson Looking For More Pac-10 Titles - Two-time Conference floor exercise champion and 2003 all-around champion Kate Richardson returns in her senior season with her eyes on more Pac-10 titles. Richardson won her floor titles with perfect 10s in both 2003 and 2004, and she won her all-around title in 2003 with a Championships record 39.825. Bruin sophomore Tasha Schwikert will be unable to defend her all-around and uneven bars titles. She just returned to competition last Friday on the balance beam after undergoing shoulder surgery in December and will not be competing on bars.

In addition to Richardson and Schwikert, three other returning and former champions are expected to compete as well - Stanford's Natalie Foley (2004 all-around, vault, bars), Arizona State's Ashley Kelly (2005 and 2004 beam), and Oregon State's Chrissy Lamun (2003 floor).

Conference Awards To Be Handed Out - Conference awards for Gymnast of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Coach of the Year will be handed out at the conclusion of the meet. Last season, UCLA's Kristen Maloney earned Gymnast of the Year honors, giving the Bruins nine consecutive Gymnast of the Year awards (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 14 times in 19 years. Head coach Valorie Kondos Field has won Pac-10 Coach of the Year three times (1995, 2000, 2003). UCLA has produced three conference Freshmen of the Year - Tasha Schwikert in 2005, Kate Richardson in 2003 and Doni Thompson in 2000.

In The Rankings - UCLA is tied with Nebraska for 11th in this week's national rankings, which are based on Regional Qualifying Score (RQS). The Bruins hold an RQS of 196.005. UCLA is ranked fifth on bars (49.125), eighth on vault (49.185), 10th on floor (49.120) and 14th on beam (48.885). Individually, senior Kate Richardson ranks third in the nation in the all-around (39.475) and is in the Top 11 on all four events, checking in at seventh on beam (9.895), ninth on vault (9.9) and bars (9.895), and 11th on floor (9.895). Freshman Kristina Comforte ranks 10th in the all-around (39.395) and is sixth on bars (9.9) and 11th on beam (9.870).

Five of the seven Pac-10 teams are ranked in the Top 25 - No. 9 Arizona State, No. 10 Stanford, No. 11 UCLA, No. 15 Arizona and No. 17 Oregon State. Several Pac-10 gymnasts are high in the individual national rankings - ASU's Ashley Kelly is second in the all-around, fourth on beam and sixth on bars. Stanford's Liz Tricase ranks first on bars, and Arizona's Aubrey Taylor ranks ninth.

Schwikert, Chan Return To Competition - Defending NCAA all-around champion Tasha Schwikert made her season debut on Mar. 17 at LSU, competing on balance beam. Schwikert, a 2000 U.S. Olympian and 2003 World Championships gold medalist, had been out since undergoing shoulder surgery in December. Freshman Melissa Chan also returned to competition at LSU, competing on bars. Chan had been out since mid-February due to a calf injury. She has been a valuable all-arounder for UCLA this season, recording a season-best of 39.375 to win the Oregon State meet. She has scored 9.8 or better on beam in six of her seven meets and has season-bests of 9.85 on vault, 9.825 on bars and 9.9 on beam and floor. Both are expected to return on more events this weekend at the Pac-10 Championships.

Bruins Drop Dual Meet At LSU - The Bruins welcomed back injured competitors Tasha Schwikert and Melissa Chan and recorded their second-highest away score of the season in a 196.825-195.975 dual meet loss at LSU. The Bruins kept it close for the first three rotations, earning 49.125 on bars, 49.075 on vault and 49.125 on floor, but LSU's 49.475 on floor in the final rotation gave the Tigers the win, while the Bruins scored 48.65. Five Bruins competed in the all-around, with four scoring 39+ (Kate Richardson - 39.475, Kristina Comforte - 39.4, Jordan Schwikert - season-high 39.2, and Ariana Berlin - 39.05). Junior Ashley Peckett competed in the all-around for the first time since January 2005 and for only the fourth time in her collegiate career. Peckett scored a 38.75, her highest all-around mark since her freshman season.

Freshmen Now Seasoned Veterans - With the amount of competition time the seven-member Bruin freshman class of Ariana Berlin, Melissa Chan, Kristina Comforte, Jalynne Dantzscher, Janelle Dantzscher, Alyssa Kitasoe and Maranda Smith has attained this season, they could easily be described as seasoned veterans. Having to fill in throughout most of the season due to a rash of injuries, the freshmen have gained valuable experience in their first season. In 12 meets, they have accounted for 185 of the team's 284 routines (65%). Four freshmen - Comforte, Chan, Berlin and Janelle Dantzscher - have gone all-around three times or more, with each scoring in the 39s at least once.

Kate The Great - Senior Kate Richardson is having another outstanding season, ranking in the Top 11 in all four events and the all-around. She joins Georgia's Courtney Kupets as the only two gymnasts in the nation to rank in the Top 15 all the way across the board. Richardson has 29 individual victories this season, including seven in the all-around. The 10-time All-American leads UCLA with season averages of 9.87 on vault and 9.873 on bars and has recorded season-bests of 9.925 on vault and 9.95 on bars, beam and floor. Her all-around season-high is 39.575.

Jordan Schwikert Back In All-Around - Sophomore All-American Jordan Schwikert is back on all four events after starting the season on the sidelines due to November shoulder surgery. She made her all-around season debut on Mar. 5 and scored 38.825 and then improved to a 39.2 last week at LSU. Schwikert has been a standout for the Bruins since her return, setting career-highs on vault (9.95) and beam (9.925) to win at Georgia and on floor (9.925) to win against Stanford and San Jose State. She has a team-best average of 9.832 on floor and ranks third on the team with a 9.8 average on vault.

Berlin Beating The Odds - Freshman walk-on Ariana Berlin has been one of the most pleasant surprises in collegiate gymnastics this season. Berlin, who prior to this season had not competed in gymnastics since a serious car accident in 2001 halted her budding elite career, has been one of UCLA's rocks, hitting 42 of 44 routines (96%) so far this season. She has become a mainstay in the all-around lineup in each of the last 10 meets and recorded a best of 39.225 at Arizona on Feb. 24. She won her first all-around title on Feb. 12 against Washington with a score of 39.2. Berlin, who is ranked 36th in the all-around in this week's national rankings, was selected the UCLA/MET-Rx Student-Athlete of the Week for Jan. 17-22 after placing second in the all-around at Washington and scoring 38.95 against Oregon State two days later and earned Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week acclaim after her all-around victory on Feb. 12. Ironically, Berlin is the one Bruin gymnast who has not been held out of a meet or an event due to injury. With 44 routines competed this year, Berlin and Kate Richardson are tied for second-most routines competed on the team. Only Kristina Comforte has competed more, with 46.

Peckett Holds Near-Perfect Hit Percentage - Another steady competitor for UCLA has been junior Ashley Peckett. Limited to vault and bars for most of the season due to a pre-season ankle injury, she returned to the floor lineup on Mar. 5 and scored a 9.75 on a routine with a 9.9 start value. On Mar. 17, she competed in the all-around and earned a 38.75. Peckett has recorded a nearly perfect 'hit' percentage this year, hitting 24 of 25 routines (96%) without a fall. She has hit 57 of her last 58 consecutive routines dating back to last season. Peckett holds the Bruins' second-best average of vault (9.809) and third-best average on bars (9.761) and has scored season-highs of 9.9 on bars, 9.875 on vault, 9.4 on beam and 9.775 on floor.

Comforte Scores Nation's Perfect 10, Develops Into One Of Nation's Best All-Arounders - Freshman Kristina Comforte became the first gymnast in the nation to score a perfect 10 this season. At Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 3, Comforte hit a flawless Yurchenko layout full vault to receive her first career perfect score. Comforte, a current member of the U.S. National Team, also won the uneven bars at that meet with a career-best 9.9 and placed second in the all-around with a then-career-high 39.475. In addition, she finished third on both beam (9.825) and floor (9.75). Comforte has developed into one of the nation's top all-around competitors, ranking 10th in the all-around with an RQS of 39.35. In her last four all-around efforts, she has averaged 39.419 with a win in the tri-meet against Stanford and San Jose State. Comforte has seven consecutive Top 3 placements in all-around action.

Sister Act 2 - Last season, Tasha and Jordan Schwikert became the first pair of sisters to compete concurrently for UCLA's gymnastics team. This season, the sisters are joined by another pair of sisters, Jalynne and Janelle Dantzscher, who are the first set of twins to compete for the Bruins. The name Dantzscher should be a familiar one to Bruin fans. The twins' older sister Jamie Dantzscher competed for UCLA from 2001-04 and won three NCAA team (2001, 2003, 2004) and four NCAA individual titles (2002 all-around, vault, floor; 2003 bars). Jalynne has competed in every meet this season, scoring season highs of 9.875 on floor, 9.825 on bars and 9.65 on beam. Janelle has missed the last two meets due to illness but has competed in the all-around three times. She has season-bests of 9.825 on floor, 9.8 on beam, 9.775 on bars and 9.725 on vault. Her all-around high is 39.125.

Early Graduates - Three members of the UCLA squad graduated from high school early to join the Bruins. Jalynne and Janelle Dantzscher took extra community college courses last year so that they could graduate a year early from San Dimas HS. Maranda Smith graduated a half-year early in December and joined the Bruin team on Dec. 27. She began classes at UCLA in January for the start of winter quarter.

Standouts In Classroom - The Bruins had large success in the classroom in the fall, with 10 team members making the Director's Honor Roll (3.0 or better) for fall quarter. The honor roll student-athletes were Janelle Dantzscher, Jalynne Dantzscher, Ashley Peckett, Michelle Selesky, Courtney Walker, Kristina Comforte, Kate Richardson, Tasha Schwikert, Jordan Schwikert and Lindsey Vanden Eykel.

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