Jan. 26, 2000
THIS WEEK -- The fifth-ranked UCLA Gymnastics team (5-4) will host 11th-ranked Arizona State (6-0) in the Bruins' 2000 home opener on Friday, Jan. 28 at Pauley Pavilion at 7:00 pm. The promotional theme for the meet is "A Night at the Movies." Anyone who purchases season tickets by Friday will receive a free UCLA Gymnastics t-shirt.
A LOOK AT ARIZONA STATE -- The 11th-ranked Sun Devils last weekend struggled in a dual meet with California, totaling just 191.925 to the Bears' 190.200. However, ASU remains undefeated in three meets this year and have a season-best score of 194.7. All-American Kelly Christensen-Cowley is undefeated on the vault this year, and All-American Elizabeth McNabb is ranked 17th on floor with a 9.8583 average and 13th on beam with a 9.833 average. Lea Carver ranks 10th on beam with an average of 9.8417. Head coach John Spini's Sun Devils placed fourth at last year's NCAA Championships.
LAST WEEK -- UCLA recorded the nation's top two scores at the time, totalling 196.3 at Arizona Jan. 14 and 195.925 at Cal State Fullerton Jan. 17. At Arizona, the Bruins hit 24 for 24 routines and were led by junior All-American Mohini Bhardwaj, who won the all-around, vault, bars and floor. UCLA swept the Top 4 positions in the all-around, as Bhardwaj placed first, Lena Degteva second (39.35), Kristin Parker third (38.975) and Malia Jones fourth (38.825). Heidi Moneymaker won the beam with a 9.9. Degteva placed second on vault, bars and beam and was fifth on floor. At Cal State Fullerton, the Bruins again swept the Top 4 all-around standings, with Bhardwaj placing first, Parker second with a career-high 39.05, Moneymaker third with a 39.0 and Jones fourth with a career-high 38.875. Bhardwaj tied her career-high on beam, scoring a 9.925.
BHARDWAJ SHINES FOR BRUINS -- Junior All-American Mohini Bhardwaj (Cincinnati, Ohio) has shown why she was tabbed by head coach Valorie Kondos as the "most talented gymnast we've ever had at UCLA." At the Bruins' season opener in the Super Six Challenge, 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. At Arizona, Bhardwaj won the all-around with a career-high and then-nation-leading 39.45, won bars for the second time this season (9.925) and also placed first on vault and floor. Bhardwaj, who ranks No. 6 on vault, No. 10 on floor and No. 4 in the all-around, has a team-leading seven wins this season, as well as 12 Top 3 finishes.
YOUNG BRUINS SEEK EXPERIENCE -- The youthful 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 opening weekend, UCLA 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).
THE COMEBACK KID -- Freshman Doni Thompson (Olympia, Wash.) not only made her collegiate debut Jan. 8 at the Super Six Challenge, 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. Thompson has placed third on beam with scores of 9.8 in her last two meets, both in the leadoff position.
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 have made strong impressions in their first three collegiate meets. Along with the aforementioned Thompson, Onnie Willis (Tacoma, Wash.) has two victories this season, winning the vault at Arizona and floor at Cal State Fullerton. Willis, who ranks 17th on vault, averages 9.82 on vault and 9.8 on floor. Malia Jones (Sparks, Nev.) has placed fourth in the all-around in her last two meets and is averaging 9.78 on the floor. Kristin Parker (Hanford, Calif.) recorded a 9.825 on bars at the Super Six Challenge and tied for third on beam at Arizona with a 9.8. Parker, who ranks 13th nationally in the all-around, recorded a new career-high all-around score of 39.05 to place second at Cal State Fullerton. Parker and Thompson are the only two Bruins to hit all of their routines this year.
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 and currently ranked 17th in the all-around and floor, ninth on bars and 20th on vault, finished 13th in the all-around finals. Eight-time All-American Moneymaker, the defending NCAA vault champion, the 1998 NCAA bars champion and the 10th-ranked gymnast on floor and vault, 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.
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.