April 12, 2000
Boise, ID (AP) - UCLA coach Valorie Kondos was asked to evaluate her team's chances at this week's NCAA women's gymnastics championships. Without hesitation, she said one thing sticks out.
Make that three things.
The Bruins had three gymnasts fall from the balance beam at their regional meet two weeks ago, tempering the confidence of an otherwise dominant team. UCLA set school records this season in the bars, floor exercise and vault.
At regionals, there was enough of a cushion between the Bruins and runner-up Oregon State to offset the beam falls. UCLA won't have that luxury against a 12-team field that features many of the sport's traditional powers.
``It's simple,'' Kondos said. ``We can't expect to have a miss and still win.''
Should the Bruins falter, Alabama had the nation's highest regional score (197.3). There's also defending NCAA champion Georgia, 10-time national champion Utah and strong programs at Michigan and Nebraska.
Oregon State, Iowa State, Penn State, LSU, West Virginia and BYU also are competing. Team semifinals are Thursday, with the six highest-scoring schools advancing to Friday's team finals.
``They're all big names and strong teams,'' Utah all-around perfomer Denise Jones said. ``I think everyone's in the hunt.''
The meet ends with individual event finals Saturday.
Michigan has a great shot at the team title because of Sarah Cain. Her 9.927 average on the vault leads the nation and she's the highest-rated athlete in the all-around with a 39.387 average.
``She's very good, very clean and absolutely lovely to watch,'' Kondos said. ``You're not going to get any deductions out of her form. It's only going to come from a wobble or a fall.''
Moneymaker isn't the only Bruin who can ace the vault. Lena Degteva and Onnie Willis also scored 10s this season. But UCLA's most consistent event was the floor exercise, where Moneymaker, Bhardwaj and Willis each scored 9.9's.
``UCLA was outstanding this year,'' Utah coach Greg Marsden said. ``It's their meet to win or lose. If they don't fall, they're going to be very competitive, very hard to beat.''