Jan. 17, 2000
THIS WEEK - The eighth-ranked UCLA Gymnastics team (4-4) will make its first Southern California appearance this season in a dual meet at Cal State Fullerton (1-1) Monday. The meet will take place at Titan Gym at 7:00 pm.
A LOOK AT CAL STATE FULLERTON - The 16th-ranked Titans last week recorded their best-ever season-opening score, a 192.15 versus Arizona State and UC Santa Barbara. 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 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).
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 with fellow Bruin Amy Young.
LAST MEET - UCLA recorded the nation's top score this season with a total of 196.3 in defeating Arizona, Central Michigan and Iowa at the University of 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.
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 nation-leading 39.45, won bars for the second time this season (9.925) and also placed first on vault and floor. Bhardwaj averages a staggering 9.938 on bars, 9.875 on vault and floor and 39.25 in the all-around.
THE COMEBACK KID - Freshman Doni Thompson (Olympia, Wash.) not only made her collegiate debut last weekend 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. At Arizona, Thompson tied for third on beam with a 9.8 and also placed in the Top 10 on bars.
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 two collegiate meets. Along with the aforementioned Thompson, Onnie Willis (Tacoma, Wash.) tied for first on floor at Arizona with a 9.85 and tied for third on vault with a 9.8. She is averaging 9.8 on vault in her two meets. Willis also scored a 9.75 to tie for fifth on bars at Arizona in her first meet on that event. Malia Jones (Sparks, Nev.) is averaging a 9.788 on floor with a sixth-place showing at Arizona (9.8) and placed fourth in her all-around debut with a 38.825. 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 also scored 38.975 in the all-around to place third.
BRUINS EXPECTED TO BE RANKED NO. 1 IN NEXT POLL - With a score of 196.3 last Friday at Arizona, UCLA is expected to earn the No. 1 spot in the next national rankings, which come out Tuesday evening. The rankings for the first two weeks are based on season-high score. The Bruins started the season as the pre-season No. 3 team and were ranked No. 8 in the Week One rankings. Mohini Bhardwaj could also be ranked No. 1 in the all-around with her mark of 39.45.
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.