April 16, 2004
Los Angeles, Calif. - The second session of the 2004 NCAA Gymnastics Championships featured UCLA, Alabama and Utah, three of the four teams who have won NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships. The night would end with the three powerhouses still standing, sending each to Friday's team finals. The three advancing teams from Thursday's evening session recorded higher scores than any team in the afternoon session. UCLA scored a meet-high 197.675, followed by Alabama with a 197.325 and Utah with a 196.925. LSU finished in fourth with a 196.650. Michigan was fifth with a 196.500, and Arizona State sixth with a 196.325. Alabama's Jeana Rice won the all-around with a 39.65.
The meet got off to a shaky start for UCLA. With a stumble on vault on the first routine of the night, the Bruins had no place to go but up. That's exactly what they did, with each of the following five gymnasts recording scores of 9.8 or higher. UCLA was able to capture a 49.35 on the event before moving to a bye during the second rotation.
Across the arena, Utah was playing copycat to UCLA. A Kristen Riffanacht fall on bars was overcome by clutch Ute performances, including Nicolle Ford's 9.925. The Utes were strong enough on the apparatus to tie for the lead after one rotation with a 49.350. Other first rotation scores included Michigan's 49.150 on floor and LSU's 48.775.
With the Bruins sitting out, the second rotation was dominated by Alabama, who recorded a 49.450 on floor, led by 9.925s from Alexis Brion and Ashley Miles. In evaluating each team's first rotation scores, Alabama had the early lead, followed by UCLA and Utah both of whom recorded 49.350 on their respective events.
UCLA dominated in the third rotation with an impressive 49.65 on the uneven bars. Ashley Peckett led off with a solid 9.800, setting the tone for a solid overall Bruin performance. The trend continued with the performance of Kristen Maloney, who scored 9.925. Yvonne Tousek recorded a 9.875 from the third spot in the rotation, leading the way for the 2003 NCAA uneven bars co-champion Kate Richardson. She would not disappoint, nailing her routine for a resounding 9.925 and a share of the meet lead on the apparatus. Jeanette Antolin took up the fifth spot looking to one-up her teammate. The senior Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year improved upon her earlier vault score by attaining a 9.950. Jamie Dantzscher, the 2003 uneven bars co-champion, rounded out the incredible Bruin performance with a 9.975, receiving perfect 10s from two of the judges. UCLA counted five routines of 9.875 or higher en route to a meet-high 49.650. The score put them on top of the competition with an even 99.0.
Riding the highest score of the meet thus far, UCLA headed to the balance beam, an even they have dominated all season. Freshman Lori Winn led off with a 9.8, and Christie Tedmon's 9.775 followed. Antolin stuck her double-pike dismount to record a 9.850, the same score Richardson was awarded at the conclusion of her routine. Tousek scored a 9.875 to set the table for Maloney, UCLA's anchor gymnast. Maloney scored a strong 9.85, closing out the event for UCLA and helping them achieve a 49.225, the highest team score on beam of any team to that point.
After the fifth rotation, both Utah and Michigan had competed on all four events. Utah checked in with a 196.925, while Michigan followed with a 196.500. Alabama and UCLA were neck and neck, with the Crimson Tide leading the Bruins 148.300 to 148.225. The team totals were not the only close scores in the arena.
It was the all-around competition where the intensity was rising. Alabama's Rice, UCLA's Richardson and LSU's April Burkholder were within .025 of the all-around title heading into each gymnasts' final event. Richardson would be competing on floor with the rest of the Bruins, Rice and Alabama would head to beam, and Burkholder and the Tigers would go to the uneven bars.
Peckett started the Bruins off on the right track with a spirited floor routine, earning a 9.850 from the judges. Tousek performed well also, receiving a 9.9 before a raucous home crowd. Maloney's 9.85 followed, leading to Dantzscher's crowd-pleasing floor routine worth a 9.9. Richardson turned in a 9.85 on floor, just as Rice was scoring a 9.9 to win the all-around with a 39.65. Burkholder turned in a 9.875 to tie for second with Antolin, whose 9.95 pushed her ahead of Richardson for her second-place tie (39.6). Richardson, Arizona State's Ashley Kelly and Michigan's Elise Ray tied for fourth with scores of 39.575. Maloney tied for eighth with a 39.525.
The Bruins totaled a 49.4 on floor to finish in first with a 197.675. Alabama followed with a final total of 197.325. Utah closed out the three qualifying teams with a team total of 196.925. The three teams will join first session qualifiers Florida, Stanford and Georgia in the Super Six Team Finals. UCLA and Georgia remain the only two schools to qualify for every Super Six since its inception in 1993.