UCLA Gymnasts Seek NCAA Championship Berth At South Central Regionals

April 5, 2006

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UCLA At NCAA South Central Regionals - The ninth-ranked UCLA Bruins (21-6) will travel to Fayetteville, Ark. for the NCAA South Central Regionals, which will take place at Barnhill Arena on the University of Arkansas campus on Saturday, Apr. 8 at 6:00 pm CT. The top two teams at each of the six regional meets around the nation will advance to the NCAA Championships, which will be held Apr. 20-22 in Corvallis, Ore.

The Regional Field - Competing against UCLA for two spots in the NCAA Championships are No. 1 seed Florida, No. 3 seed Arkansas, Illinois, Illinois-Chicago and Southeast Missouri State.

Rotation Order - UCLA received the Olympic rotation and will start the meet on vault. After a bye, the Bruins will move to bars, then beam, then another bye before ending on floor exercise. The rotation order for the championships was determined by blind draw by the NCAA.

On Air - The regional meet will be televised locally in Arkansas.

Live Coverage - Live scoring will be available at ladybacks.com.

Regional Championship History - The Bruins have won 16 regional titles, including seven consecutive and 12 in the last 13 years. In addition, a Bruin gymnast has won the all-around title at their regional in each of the last seven years. Last season, UCLA scored a 197.025 to defeat second-place Penn State (195.375) in the NCAA West Regional at Washington. Tasha Schwikert won the all-around and tied for first on vault, bars and floor. Kristen Maloney placed second in the all-around, first on beam and tied for first on vault and floor, and Jordan Schwikert completed the UCLA all-around sweep with a 39.4 for third place.

In The Rankings - UCLA finished the regular season tied with Michigan for ninth in the national rankings, which are based on Regional Qualifying Score (RQS). The Bruins hold an RQS of 196.230. UCLA is ranked fifth on bars (49.2), sixth on vault (49.22), 10th on floor (49.120) and 12th on beam (48.955). Individually, senior Kate Richardson ranks third in the nation in the all-around (39.525) and is in the Top 10 on all four events, checking in at fifth on beam (9.91) and ninth on vault (9.9), bars (9.895), and 11th on floor (9.905). Freshman Kristina Comforte ranks 11th in the all-around (39.410) and is sixth on bars (9.9) and 10th on beam (9.885). Freshman Melissa Chan is tied for 20th on beam with a 9.865.

Amongst UCLA's competitors at the Regional, only Florida (No. 3, 196.570) and Arkansas (No. 18, 195.290) are ranked in the Top 25. Florida freshman Corey Hartung ranks 16th nationally in the all-around (39.365).

Bruins Getting Healthier - UCLA's post-season prospects improved with the return of Tasha Schwikert and Melissa Chan to competition. Schwikert, the defending NCAA all-around champion, made her season debut on Mar. 17 at LSU, competing on balance beam. A week later, at the Pac-10 Championships, she competed on vault, beam and floor. 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. She was added to the beam lineup at Pac-10s and tied for second place with a career-high 9.95. 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 seven of her eight meets and has season-bests of 9.85 on vault, 9.825 on bars and 9.95 on beam and 9.9 on floor.

Bruins Record Season-High To Place Second At Pac-10s - UCLA had its best meet of the season at the Pac-10 Championships, scoring a season-best 196.8 to place second, three-tenths of a point behind first-place Stanford. The Bruins won three of the four events, recording season-bests of 49.325 on vault and 49.525 on beam, as well as scoring a 49.125 on bars. Kate Richardson (39.525) and Jordan Schwikert (career-high tying 39.5) placed second and third, respectively, in the all-around.

Richardson, Berlin Honored By Pac-10 - Senior Kate Richardson was selected the Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year in a vote by the conference coaches, and freshman Ariana Berlin was named the Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year, along with Oregon State's Jami Lanz. Richardson is the 10th consecutive Bruin gymnast to earn the Gymnast of the Year award and the 15th overall in 20 years. Berlin is the second consecutive Freshman of the Year from UCLA, following in the footsteps of last year's winner, Tasha Schwikert. Four Bruin gymnasts have earned this award since it was established in 2000.

Three Bruins Earn All-Pac-10 Honors - Kate Richardson, Kristina Comforte and Ariana Berlin were named to the 2006 Pac-10 All-Conference team in the all-around. Richardson was also honored on vault, beam and floor, bringing her career total to a school-record 14. The All-Conference teams consist of the top six all-around competitors, plus the top three competitors in each individual event. A gymnast's score is determined by a combination of 50 percent regional qualifying score (entire season composite) and 50 percent Pacific-10 Conference Championships score.

Richardson, Peckett Receive Pac-10 Academic Honors - Senior Kate Richardson and junior Ashley Peckett were named to the Pac-10 All-Academic teams in 2006. Richardson, who holds a 3.66 grade point average in Physiological Science, earns her second consecutive first-team honor and her third overall. Peckett, who has a 3.67 GPA in Physiological Science, received second-team acclaim a year after receiving honorable mention honors.

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 13 meets, they have accounted for 196 of the team's 308 routines (64%). 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 10 in all four events and the all-around. The 2006 Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year joins Georgia's Courtney Kupets as the only two gymnasts in the nation to rank in the Top 10 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 9.871 on vault and 9.869 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, improved to a 39.2 at LSU and then tied her career-high at the Pac-10 Championships on Mar. 25 with a 39.5 to place third. 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 9.831 on floor and is tied for second on the team with a 9.81 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 46 of 48 routines (96%) so far this season. She has become a mainstay in the all-around lineup in each of the last 11 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 48 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 50.

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 26 of 27 routines (96%) without a fall. She has hit 59 of her last 60 consecutive routines dating back to last season. Peckett holds the Bruins' second-best average of vault (9.81) and third-best average on bars (9.763) 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 11th in the all-around with an RQS of 39.35. In her last five all-around efforts, she has averaged 39.41 with a win in the tri-meet against Stanford and San Jose State. She has seven Top 3 placements in all-around action in her last eight meets. and leads the team in routines competed with 50.

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 competed in the all-around three times with a high of 39.125. She has season-bests of 9.825 on floor, 9.8 on beam, 9.775 on bars and 9.725 on vault.

Early Graduates - Four 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. Ariana Berlin also graduated from high school a year early. 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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