UCLA To Compete At NCAA Gymnastics Championships Apr. 24-26

April 21, 2008

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UCLA At The NCAA Championships -- Ninth-seeded UCLA will compete for a sixth national title at the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships on Apr. 24-26 in Athens, Ga. The Bruins begin competition on Thursday, Apr. 24 at 7:00 pm ET in the evening team preliminary session at Stegeman Coliseum. Battling with UCLA for three spots in the NCAA Super Six Team Finals will be Georgia, Stanford, Utah, Michigan and Denver. Competing in the afternoon session (1:00 pm ET) are Florida, LSU, Alabama, Oregon State, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Championship Schedule -- The competition begins on Thursday with two preliminary sessions at 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm. The top three teams from each session will advance to the Super Six Team Finals on Friday at 6:00 pm. Individual event finals will take place on Saturday at 6:00 pm. The all-around champion and individual event finalists will be determined during Thursday's preliminaries. Individuals qualify for event finals by placing in the Top 4 (including ties) of that particular event during their own preliminary session.

Live Coverage -- Live scoring for all sessions will be available at georgiadogs.com. Streaming video from Thursday's preliminaries and Saturday's event finals will also be available. The meet will be televised by CBS on May 10 from 12-2 pm.

Competition Order -- The Bruins will begin the meet on uneven bars and then will move to beam, a bye, floor exercise, then vault. UCLA ends the meet on a bye. This is the same rotation order UCLA had at the Regional meet.

Bruins Face Challenge In Evening Session -- Only three spots in the Super Six are available in each session, and the Bruins will have to battle it out against four of the Top 6 teams in the final regular season rankings. Georgia finished No. 1, Utah No. 2, Michigan No. 5 and Stanford No. 6, while UCLA finished No. 9 and Denver No. 13. Four of the six evening session teams qualified for last year's Super Six, with Georgia winning the title, Utah placing second, UCLA fourth and Stanford fifth.

UCLA's NCAA Championship History -- The Bruins have won five NCAA gymnastics titles, including four this decade. UCLA's titles were won in 1997 at Florida, 2000 at Boise State, 2001 at Georgia, 2003 at Nebraska and 2004 at UCLA. This is UCLA's 24th overall appearance in the 27 NCAA Championships. The Bruins have advanced to the Super Six every year they have qualified for the Championships in its current format.

UCLA and Georgia have combined to win 10 of the last 11 NCAA titles.

Individual NCAA History -- A total of 13 Bruins have won 26 NCAA titles to rank second behind only Georgia (31) in individual NCAA titles. UCLA's NCAA champions are: Kim Hamilton (1987-88-89 floor, 1989 vault), Jill Andrews (1988 vault, 1989 beam), Stella Umeh (1995 and 1998 floor), Heidi Moneymaker (1988 bars, 1999 vault), Kiralee Hayashi (1999 beam), Mohini Bhardwaj (2000 bars, 2001 floor), Lena Degteva (2000 beam), Onnie Willis (2001 all-around), Yvonne Tousek (2001 bars), Jamie Dantzscher (2002 all-around, vault and floor; 2003 bars), Kate Richardson (2003 bars and beam, 2006 floor), Tasha Schwikert (2005 all-around) and Kristen Maloney (2005 vault and beam). Two other Bruins won AIAW national titles - Sharon Shapiro (1980 sweep of all all-around and all four events, 1981 all-around and vault) and Diane Dovas (1981 bars). Shapiro remains the only gymnast ever to sweep the all-around and all four events in one year at a national championship. Hamilton is the only woman to win three consecutive floor titles. UCLA has won at least two individual titles in seven of the last 10 years and three titles in four of the last seven years. The Bruins have won a team or individual title in 10 of the last 11 years and have won more individual titles (19) in the last 11 years than any other team.

Last Year At NCAAs -- Last season, the Bruins battled their way to a fourth-place finish, shaking off injuries to put forth a strong team effort, scoring 196.925, just .325 out of second place. On each of the first three events, the Bruins had to put in an injured athlete at the end of the rotation for strategical purposes, and each time that athlete came through with scores that counted. First, Ashley Jenkins shook off an injured ankle to compete on uneven bars and scored a 9.8 that allowed the Bruins to drop a 9.7. On balance beam, Ashley Peckett stepped in to record a 9.825 in the anchor slot to negate an earlier fall. On floor exercise, Ariana Berlin returned to the lineup despite leg soreness and scored 9.75, and Jordan Schwikert shook off a hamstring injury to hit for a 9.85 to put UCLA just .05 behind second-place Stanford. The Bruins finished strong on vault to pull ahead of Stanford in the final rotation, scoring 49.4.

Anna Li tied for fourth in the all-around and placed ninth on beam and earned All-American honors in the all-around, vault, bars and beam. Tasha Schwikert was the national runner-up on uneven bars and earned All-America acclaim in the all-around, vault and bars. Peckett received her first career All-America honor, earning second-team acclaim on vault.

Schwikert Looking To Bookend Career With National Title -- UCLA senior Tasha Schwikert will attempt to reclaim the NCAA all-around title she won in 2005 as a freshman. Schwikert is one of four former champions competing this season. Others are 2007 beam champion Ashley Postell (Utah), 2006 bars co-champion Kristina Baskett (Utah) and 2007 floor champion Morgan Dennis (Alabama). Schwikert is looking to become only the seventh gymnast in NCAA history to earn multiple all-around titles, joining Megan McCunniff of Utah (1984-85), Penney Hauschild of Alabama (1985-86), Kelly Garrison-Steves of Oklahoma (1987-88), Jenny Hansen of Kentucky (1993-95), Kim Arnold of Georgia (1997-98) and Courtney Kupets of Georgia (2006-07).

NCAA Championship Notes

  • Only four teams have ever won the NCAA title in the 26 years of the Championships - Utah (9), Georgia (8), UCLA (5) and Alabama (4).
  • Eleven schools return from the 2007 NCAA Championships, including five Super Six teams - Georgia (1st place), Utah (2nd), Florida (3rd), UCLA (4th) and Stanford (5th). The other returning qualifiers are LSU (7th), Oklahoma (8th), Alabama (9th), Denver (10th), Oregon State and Michigan (T-11th). Arkansas makes its first trip back to NCAAs after a one-year absence, replacing last season's sixth-place team Nebraska, who placed third to Florida and UCLA at the NCAA Southeast Regionals this year.
  • Eleven of the Top 12 ranked teams qualified for the NCAA Championships. The only Top 12 team that did not advance was No. 12 Auburn, who placed fourth at the NCAA Northeast Regional. No. 13 Denver took the second qualifying spot in the regional after No. 1 Georgia.
  • UCLA ranks second amongst all schools with 26 individual titles. Georgia leads all teams with 31. Utah is third with 24.
  • The Bruins have won more individual titles in the last 11 years (19) than any other team. The next closest team is Georgia with 14.
  • UCLA has won either a team or an individual NCAA title in 10 of the last 11 years, being shut out for the first time in 10 years last season.
  • This is the fourth time Georgia has hosted the NCAA Championships. The Gym Dogs have won at home just once, edging out the Bruins by .05 in 1989. The last time Georgia hosted, the Bruins came away with the .175 victory, using a scintillating beam set in their final rotation to clinch the title. Utah won the 1995 Championship in Athens, while UCLA placed fourth and Georgia fifth.
  • The host team has won the NCAA Championships just twice in the last 11 years (UCLA in 2004 and Alabama in 2002) and nine times overall in the 26 years of the Championships.

    UCLA vs. 2008 Field -- The Bruins have matched up against six of the 11 other teams in the NCAA field this season. UCLA is 2-1 against both Stanford and Oregon State and has lost to Georgia, Utah, Florida and Alabama.

    NCAAs Back On Podium -- The NCAA Championships will be held on a podium for the first time since 2005. Although only seniors Jordan and Tasha Schwikert have competed on podium at an NCAA meet, many other Bruins have podium experience from national and international meets. Marci Bernholtz, Shavahn Church and Tasha Schwikert have competed on podium at the World Championships, and Melissa Chan, Kristina Comforte, Ashley Jenkins, Anna Li, Brittani McCullough, Jordan Schwikert and Allison Taylor have competed on podium at the USA Championships.

    Another Cross Country Trip -- Yet another long-distance trip is ahead of the Bruins, who have already traveled to Chicago, IL and Athens, GA for regular-season meets this season and to Florida for the NCAA Regionals. The long travel has not affected the Bruins, though. Three of UCLA's top four scores of the season came on those trips - 196.875 at Chicago, 196.925 at Georgia and 196.625 at Florida.

    Bruins Have Enjoyed Success At Stegeman -- Few visiting teams have enjoyed any kind of success at Georgia's Stegeman Coliseum, but UCLA has historically competed well in the Gym Dogs' home arena. Most memorably, the Bruins won the 2001 NCAA Championships at Stegeman in their final rotation by averaging over 9.9 on beam. UCLA held just a one-tenth of a point lead over Georgia heading into both team's final event. Georgia was on vault, which was one of its best events, while UCLA was on the dreaded beam. With the home team roaring with every stuck landing, Georgia scored a 49.5 on vault, and the Bruins saw their second competitor fall off the beam, which gave UCLA no room for error. And the Bruins made no errors, scoring 9.95, 9.9, 9.925 and finally 9.9 to record a 49.575 and a second-straight NCAA title.

    In 2004, the Bruins won a big dual meet in Athens, downing the Gym Dogs, 197.850-197.475. UCLA lost its last two meets in Georgia (2006 and 2008) but performed well under the circumstances. In 2006, the Bruins were ravaged by injuries and illness and did not even travel three of their top athletes, including NCAA champions and Olympians Tasha Schwikert and Kate Richardson, to the meet. This season, the Bruins lost at Georgia in a Mar. 15 dual meet but recorded their season-high score of 196.925.

    Senior Jordan Schwikert has recorded her career-highs on vault, beam and floor at Stegeman Coliseum, earning a 9.95 on vault and 9.925 on beam in 2006 and a 9.925 on floor in 2008.

    The Weather On The Other Hand ... -- Although the Bruins enjoyed their best meet of the season at Georgia on Mar. 15, the weather was a different issue. The competition was delayed for over 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, however, and swept into the arena to hit their highest team score of the season, 196.925.

    In The Rankings -- UCLA finishes the regular season ranked No. 9 in the national rankings with a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) of 196.510. The Bruins are ranked second on uneven bars (49.35), sixth on vault (49.315), 10th on beam (49.125) and tied for 16th on floor (49.025).

    The Bruins have two gymnasts ranked in the Top 3 on uneven bars - No. 2 Anna Li (9.925) and No. 3 Tasha Schwikert (9.920). Two Bruins are also ranked in the Top 25 in the all-around - No. 14 Li (39.385) and No. 24 Jordan Schwikert (39.315) - and on vault - No. 8 Tasha Schwikert (9.915) and No. 16 Brittani McCullough (9.895).

    Runner-Up Finish Gives Bruins 24th Trip To Nationals -- Competing in a field that included three of last year's Super Six teams, UCLA earned a second-place finish at the NCAA Southeast Regionals to gain a spot in the NCAA Championships. Host team Florida won the meet with a 197.525, while UCLA scored 196.625. The Bruins got off to a terrific start with a 49.375 on uneven bars in the first rotation after the last five competitors stuck their dismounts. Balance beam started off shaky when leadoff Ariana Berlin had a rare fall, but her teammates backed her up with five solid performances that totaled 49.1. The Bruins fought their way to a 48.875 on floor before wrapping things up with a 49.275 on vault. Anna Li tied for the uneven bars title with a 9.95 and received a 10.0 from one judge. Kristina Comforte tied for the balance beam title with a 9.875.

    Bruins Place Third At Pac-10s -- UCLA trailed by just .175 heading into the final rotation but could not successfully defend its Pac-10 title, placing third after having to count a fall on floor exercise. The Bruins were forced to put in a makeshift floor lineup due to nagging injuries and illness. Ariana Berlin led the Bruins with a third place finish in the all-around, scoring a season-best 39.4. Tasha Schwikert won her seventh career Pac-10 individual title, claiming a share of the uneven bars crown with a season-best 9.95.

    Berlin Big For Bruins At Pac-10s -- Junior Ariana Berlin had a big meet at the Pac-10 Championships, placing third in the all-around with a season-high 39.4 despite competing as the leadoff gymnast on three events and second up in the lineup on the fourth. Berlin set her teammates up beautifully on vault, bars and beam, scoring 9.8 on vault, a season-high 9.9 on bars and a season-high 9.85 on beam. She also had a season-high 9.85 on floor in the No. 2 slot.

    In 22 of 41 leadoff routines this season, Berlin has recorded a score of 9.8 or greater. The consistent Berlin averages 9.74 or higher on three events, including a high of 9.79 on vault. In her career, she has hit 141 of 148 routines without a fall for a hit percentage of 95.3%.

    Injured McCullough Named Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year -- Redshirt freshman Brittani McCullough was selected as the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year after a season in which she finished the regular season ranked in the Top 35 in the nation in the all-around and in the Top 20 on vault. McCullough's season was cut short on Mar. 9 when she ruptured her left Achilles tendon during her floor exercise routine. Prior to her injury, she had competed all-around in seven meets, averaging 39.1 and placing in the Top 3 in six of those seven meets. She scored a season-best 39.375 twice and had three vault victories and five 9.9 scores on that event. McCullough also had one victory on balance beam with a 9.9 and two on floor exercise.

    Four Bruins Earn 1st-Team All-Pac-10 Honors -- Ariana Berlin, Anna Li, Jordan Schwikert and Tasha Schwikert were named to the Pac-10 All-Conference team. Berlin, Li and Jordan Schwikert received first-team honors in the all-around, while Tasha Schwikert was named to the first team on vault and uneven bars. Berlin's all-conference honor was the first in her career, while Li repeated in the all-around. Jordan Schwikert earned her third career honor after receiving all-conference acclaim on uneven bars last year and in the all-around as a freshman. Tasha Schwikert picked up her seventh career honor.

    Four Also Selected To Pac-10 All-Academic Team -- Juniors Ariana Berlin and Kristina Comforte and senior Tasha Schwikert were selected to the Pac-10 All-Academic second team, and senior Natalie Padilla received honorable mention acclaim. The three second-teamers are each receiving their second career Pac-10 academic awards after earning honorable mention acclaim a year ago. Berlin holds a 3.50 in World Arts and Culture, while sociology majors Comforte and Schwikert have GPAs of 3.37 and 3.22, respectively.

    Schwikerts Surging -- Seniors Tasha Schwikert and Jordan Schwikert have been on fire as of late. Although consistently good 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 16 of her last 25 routines and hitting 41 of her 42 routines on the year, including 37 in a row. In all-around action, she has scored 39.45 or better in her last six efforts, with a high of 39.675 set on Mar. 9. Jordan, although often competing in the early half of the lineup, has scored 39.225 or better in seven of her last eight all-around attempts, with a season-best of 39.4 coming Mar. 9. She has scored 9.875 or better on floor in five of her last six meets, hitting a career-high tying 9.925 on Mar. 15 at Georgia and a third-place mark of 9.9 at Pac-10s. Jordan has six 9.9+ scores on the year and has hit 42 of her 44 routines on the year.

    Comforte Comes Back From January Injury -- Two months after a knee injury that at first glance looked like a season-ending injury, junior Kristina Comforte has worked her way back into the competition lineup on three events. Comforte injured her right knee on Jan. 27 during her floor exercise routine. Fortunately, the injury was not as bad as it looked, and she was sidelined for four meets with a significant bone bruise. She returned to the competition lineup on Feb. 24 against Utah, scoring a 9.825 on uneven bars. A week after that, 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. She equaled that mark at the Pac-10 Championships, tying for fourth place. Since her return, she has averaged 9.85 on her 14 routines and has earned five 9.9 scores.

    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.

    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 nine of 13 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.

    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.

    By The Numbers -- Tasha Schwikert has hit 37 routines in a row and 41 of 42 this season ... Dating back to last year, Schwikert has hit 100 of her last 101 routines ... In her career, she has hit 161 of 167 routines (96.4%) without a fall ... Schwikert has also hit 39 straight vaults for 9.8 or better and has scored lower than 9.8 just once in her career (9.75) ... With one more mark of 9.9 or higher, Schwikert will earn her 100th 9.9+ score of her career ... Jordan Schwikert has been just as consistent as her older sister this year, hitting 42 of 44 routines ... Ariana Berlin has competed in 41 straight meets and has hit 141 of 148 career routines (95.3%) 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 13 meets this year.

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