UCLA Hits The Road For Dual Meet At Washington

Jan. 30, 2008

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This Week -- Eighth-ranked UCLA (6-0) heads to Washington for the first of four-straight road meets. The Bruins will take on the Huskies (1-2) on Friday, Feb. 1 at 7 pm in Bank of America Arena.

Live Coverage -- A free video webcast and live stats will be available at GoHuskies.com.

In The Rankings -- UCLA remained at No. 8 in the national rankings with an average score of 195.383. The Bruins are tied with Georgia for second on vault (49.175) and are ranked No. 5 on beam (48.950). UCLA is also ranked 14th on floor (48.750) and 17th on bars (48.508).

Individually, sophomore Anna Li is ranked in the Top 20 in the all-around and on two events - No. 11 in the all-around (39.333), No. 17 on floor (9.858) and No. 20 on bars (9.842). Redshirt freshman Brittani McCullough ranks No. 20 in the all-around (39.150) and No. 5 on vault (9.892). Also ranked are freshman Marci Bernholtz on beam (No. 12, 9.837) and seniors Natalie Padilla on floor (No. 20, 9.850), Jordan Schwikert on bars (No. 3, 9.900) and Tasha Schwikert on vault (No. 10, 9.875).

About The Huskies -- Washington picked up its first victory of the season last Friday, defeating California with a season-high score of 193.975. Junior Ashley Houghting won the all-around and two events to bring her season total to five victories in three meets. Houghting is the defending Pac-10 vault co-champion (tied with UCLA's Tasha Schwikert). Also performing well against Cal were freshmen Kristen Linton, who won two events, and Haley Bogart, who won one event and placed second in two others.

UCLA leads the overall series with Washington, 44-2, and has won nine straight times. Washington's last victory came in a dual meet in Seattle in 2004, 197.225-197.100.

Bruins Edge Out Stanford But Lose Comforte -- In the smallest margin of victory possible, UCLA put an end to a three-meet dual meet losing streak against Stanford with a 195.050-195.025 victory on Sunday. The meet came down to the final competitor. Needing to score 9.8 on the floor exercise for the Bruins to win, senior Tasha Schwikert did just that to keep UCLA undefeated on the year. The victory was tempered, however, by an injury to junior Kristina Comforte, who injured her right knee on her opening tumbling pass. Comforte suffered significant bone bruising but no ligament damage. She is out indefinitely.

Li Wins Third-Straight All-Around -- Sophomore Anna Li has won the all-around in three-straight meets to open the season. The four-time All-American is currently ranked 11th in the nation with an all-around average of 39.333. She leads the team with seven individual victories (three in the all-around, two on floor and one each on bars and beam) and a total of 11 Top 3 finishes.

Schwikert Named Pac-10 Event Specialist Of The Week -- Senior Jordan Schwikert rebounded from a hamstring injury that kept her out of the Jan. 20 meet, delivering three solid performances on Sunday to help the Bruins defeat Stanford. Schwikert earned a tie for first on uneven bars with a season-high 9.9, added another season-best 9.8 on the floor exercise and scored 9.675 on vault. For her efforts, she was awarded the Pac-10 Event Specialist of the Week.

Chan Makes Surprising Season Debut -- Junior Melissa Chan's season debut on Sunday was a bit unexpected. Chan did not enter the meet as the alternate but went in anyway as a last-minute replacement for Ariana Berlin on floor exercise. Chan, who was been unable to compete in the first two meets due to ankle injuries, hit her routine and scored 9.55.

The Bruin freshmen have been getting good experience early this season. Niki Tom has competed in two of three meets on vault and beam with highs of 9.825 and 9.7, respectively. She has also performed exhibition routines on the other two events. Last weekend, Tom recorded an unofficial season-best of 9.75 on beam in an exhibition routine. Allison Taylor has two meets on uneven bars under her belt and hit a season-best 9.675 at Fullerton. Marci Bernholtz 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.

Streaks -- Anna Li has competed in the all-around in every meet as a Bruin for a total of 19 career all-around performances. She averages 39.195 with a career-best of 39.55 set Jan. 21, 2007 ... Li has hit 72 of 76 career routines for a hit percentage of 94.7% (only falls coming on balance beam) ... Li has never scored lower than 9.775 on uneven bars, averaging 9.872 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 126 of 132 career routines (95.5%) ... Schwikert has hit 29 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 107 of 113 (94.7%) career routines without a fall.

UCLA Breaks 196 In Quad Meet Victory -- The Bruins hit 24-for-24 routines without a fall to score a season-best 196.125 in a quad meet victory at Cal State Fullerton on Sunday afternoon. Cal State Fullerton was second with a 191.025, Brown was third with a 183.025, and Wisconsin-Eau Claire placed fourth with a 176.525. Sophomore Anna Li won the all-around for the second-straight meet, scoring 39.35. Brittani McCullough was second with a 39.15, and Kristina Comforte placed third with a 39.0. McCullough and Tasha Schwikert tied for first on vault with a pair of 9.9s. Comforte was first on bars with a 9.9, and freshman Marci Bernholtz won the beam with a 9.875.

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 second place in the all-around in all three meets this year and has recorded victories on floor in Las Vegas and on vault in the last two meets. McCullough sat out the 2007 season after severing a tendon in her toe during a car accident in November of 2006.

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.

Looking Ahead -- UCLA travels to Chicago for the first-ever collegiate competition at the IGI Chicago Style Meet. The meet will take place on Friday, Feb. 8 at 7 pm CT at Chicago's Navy Pier (Exhibition Hall - Michigan Ave.). Also competing are Illinois, Stanford and Washington. The meet will serve as a homecoming for two Bruin gymnasts from Illinois - Kristina Comforte (Burr Ridge/Lyons Township HS/Illinois Gymnastics Institute) and Anna Li (Aurora/Waubonsie Valley HS/Aerial Gymnastics). Three of the four teams competing have athletes who trained at the Illinois Gymnastics Institute - Comforte for UCLA, Kim Kruk for Illinois, and Kelly Fee and Liz Tricase for Stanford.

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; 2007 Level 10 national vault champion and all-around runner-up Kaelie Baer of Columbus, IN; and three-time Level 10 national qualifier Tauny Frattone of Lake Forest, CA. 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 2008.

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