Jan. 10, 2000
THIS WEEK - The pre-season No. 3 UCLA Gymnastics team (1-4) will compete twice this week with a quad meet at Arizona and a dual meet at Cal State Fullerton. First up for UCLA is a meeting with Arizona (0-0), Iowa (0-0) and Central Michigan (3-0) on Friday, Jan. 14 in Tucson, Ariz. The meet will take place at the McKale Center at 7:30 pm MT. UCLA returns to Southern California on Monday, Jan. 17 to face Cal State Fullerton (1-1) at Titan Gym at 7:00 pm.
A LOOK AT FRIDAY'S COMPETITION - Arizona and Iowa will open their 2000 season on Friday. The Wildcats, who placed fourth at the Pac-10 Championships a year ago, return All-Americans Heidi Hornbeek (1997 NCAA floor champion) and Maureen Kealey. Iowa, which finished with a 5-10 record a year ago, is looking for a fresh start with new head coach Mike Lorenzen. The Hawkeyes are led by Giselle Boniforti, who holds the school record on bars (9.95) and Robyn Gamble, the school record-holder on beam (9.9). Central Michigan had a strong season a year ago, finishing 23-5 and just missing a spot in the NCAA Championships after placing third at Regionals. The Chippewas opened 2000 last weekend with a winning score of 191.575 in a quad meet at Northern Illinois. UCLA is 39-1 all-time against Arizona and 1-0 against Iowa. The Bruins and Chippewas have never met.
A LOOK AT CAL STATE FULLERTON - The Titans last weekend recorded their best-ever season-opening score, a 192.15. Sophomore newcomer Joanna Hughes, a member of the Australian National Team and a 1996 Olympian, tied the school record on bars with a 9.85. UCLA owns a 29-24 all-time advantage over the Titans.
YOUNG BRUINS SEEK EXPERIENCE -The youthful 2000 Bruins will be using the early part of the season to gain experience. UCLA returns just six athletes who competed a year ago and only four who competed at the NCAA Championships. Prior to last weekend, the Bruins had one athlete who had not competed in four years (Doni Thompson), one who had not competed in two years (Amy Young) and another who had not competed in one year (Onnie Willis).
VELASCO TO COMPETE IN HOMETOWN - Sophomore Valerie Velasco will compete in her hometown of Fullerton on Jan. 17 when the Bruins face Cal State Fullerton. Velasco, one of four returning all-arounders for the Bruins, attended school at Rosary HS and trained at Gym-Max.
LAST WEEK - UCLA placed fifth in the inaugural Super Six Challenge in Athens, Ga. last weekend. The Bruins were impressive after a shaky first rotation which saw five athletes fall off the beam. UCLA posted 49+ scores on floor (49.15) and vault (49.025) to surpass Florida into fifth place. Second-ranked Alabama won the meet with a score of 195.75, handing second-place Georgia its first loss in 30 meets.
BHARDWAJ SHINES FOR BRUINS - Junior All-American Mohini Bhardwaj (Cincinnati, Ohio) showed why she was tabbed by head coach Valorie Kondos as the "most talented gymnast we've ever had at UCLA." Bhardwaj set a new career-high with a first-place mark of 9.95 on bars, placed second on floor with a 9.9 and third on vault with a 9.875. She had the highest level of difficulty in the competition, competing a double layout on floor, a full-twisting double layout dismount on bars and a 1 1/2 twisting Yurchenko layout on vault.
THE COMEBACK KID - Freshman Doni Thompson (Olympia, Wash.) not only made her collegiate debut last weekend, but she also competed in her first meet in four and a half years. The former U.S. National Team member retired from gymnastics in 1995 after winning a gold medal at the Pan American Games (team) and USA Championships (beam) and a bronze at the World Championships (team). She returned in 1998 but had not competed since the 1995 World Championships. Thompson showed little signs of rust, scoring a 9.8 on bars and a 9.775 on floor. She was also the only Bruin to stay on the beam, scoring a 9.525.
THE COMEBACK KID 2 - Redshirt freshman Amy Young also returned to competition after a lengthy absence. A torn ACL in her left knee kept her out of competition in 1998, and she re-tore it during pre-season practice a year ago, forcing her to redshirt the 1999 season. Young competed for the first time since 1997, leading off the Bruins on beam at the Super Six Challenge.
FRESHMEN MAKE IMPRESSIVE DEBUTS - UCLA's highly-touted freshman class made a strong impression in their first collegiate meet. Along with the aforementioned Thompson, Onnie Willis (Tacoma, Wash.) scored a 9.8 on vault and a 9.75 with an out-of-bounds deduction on floor. Malia Jones (Sparks, Nev.) scored a 9.7 on vault and a 9.775 on floor, and Kristin Parker (Hanford, Calif.) recorded a 9.825 on bars and a 9.625 on vault.
BRUINS RANK THIRD IN PRE-SEASON POLL - UCLA earned the No. 3 spot in the pre-season coaches' poll, earning six first-place votes. Two-time defending champion Georgia was selected No. 1 with 17 first-place votes, followed by No. 2 Alabama with seven first-place votes. Rounding out the Top 10 are No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Utah, No. 6 Nebraska, No. 7 Arizona State, No. 8 Penn State, No. 9 Florida and No. 10 LSU. All six teams participating in the Super Six Challenge are ranked in the Top 10. UCLA will face six additional Top 25 teams in the 2000 season. The Bruins were ranked No. 4 in a pre-season poll by Sports Illustrated for Women.
HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION ... - The 2000 Bruins will be led by returning All-Americans Heidi Moneymaker (Santa Rosa, Calif.), Lena Degteva (Mississauga, Ont.) and Mohini Bhardwaj. All three Bruins competed in the 1999 World University Games during the summer, with Moneymaker and Bhardwaj representing the United States and Degteva representing Canada. Degteva, an eight-time All-American, finished 13th in the all-around finals. Eight-time All-American Moneymaker, the defending NCAA vault champion and the 1998 NCAA bars champion, placed 16th but was ninth all-around during team competition. Bhardwaj, a five-time All-American, qualified for the all-around finals but had to withdraw due to injury. In addition to competing at the World University Games, Moneymaker competed at her first-ever USA Championships, where she placed 21st.
ROSTER UPDATE - Freshman Carly Raab (Seattle, Wash.), who was a Top 10 all-around finisher at the 1998 Level 10 Championships, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in November and will redshirt the 2000 season. Sophomore Alison Stoner (Laguna Hills, Calif.) tore ligaments in her knee while competing on floor at the NCAA Championships in April and will also sit out the 2000 season. Freshman Sarah Deegan (Oshawa, Ont.) has retired from the sport and moved back to Canada to attend school there. Kaitie Dyson, a freshman in 1999, injury-retired from gymnastics due to back injuries. Dyson will serve as an undergraduate assistant coach for the Bruins.
BRUINS OPEN AT HOME JAN. 28 - UCLA's first home meet will be Friday, Jan. 28 against Arizona State in Pauley Pavilion at 7:00 pm. The Sun Devils placed fourth at last year's NCAA Championships and return All-Americans Elizabeth Reid, Elizabeth McNabb and Kelly Christensen.
UCLA AGAIN SIGNS TOP RECRUITING CLASS - UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos signed in 1999 what was considered to be the greatest recruiting class in the history of the sport. This year, she one-upped that by signing an even more impressive group of recruits.
Kondos signed three 1999 World Championships competitors and 2000 Olympic hopefuls to national letters of intent in November and reaffirmed commitments with two other Olympic hopefuls who originally signed letters of intent a year ago. The three signed this year are five-time U.S. National Team member Jeanette Antolin (Huntington Beach, Calif./ SCATS), 1999 U.S. bars champion Jamie Dantzscher (Palmdale, Calif./Charter Oaks Gliders) and 1996 Olympian and 1999 Canadian vault and floor champion Yvonne Tousek (Cambridge, Ont./Cambridge Kips).
Joining Antolin, Dantzscher and Tousek in the freshman class of 2001 will be two-time defending national all-around champion Kristen Maloney (Allentown, PA/Parkettes/ Pen Argyl HS) and 1999 World Championships qualifier Alyssa Beckerman (Middletown, NJ/Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy/Wyoming HS), who originally signed letters of intent a year ago and deferred enrollment until after the 2000 Olympics. Maloney and Beckerman signed new grant-in-aids forms for the 2000-2001 school year.