Jan. 6, 2005
After a record-setting performance at the 2004 NCAA Championships, a second consecutive UCLA graduating class left Westwood with three NCAA titles in four years. The 2005 Bruins hope to send this year's senior class off in similar fashion with a historic three-peat.
Leading the way in 2005 is fifth-year senior Kristen Maloney, who is seeking championship ring number four. Maloney played a pivotal role in the Bruins' championship runs in 2001 and 2004. Last season at team finals, she recorded the highest all-around total and slammed the door shut on the competition with a 9.9 on beam as the Bruins' final competitor in their last rotation. As a freshman, she pulled together a gritty performance on a badly-injured leg, counting scores for UCLA on all three events on which she competed. Maloney, a two-time USA National all-around champion and member of the 2000 Olympic team, has fully recovered from the leg injury that kept her sidelined in 2002 and 2003 and is prepared to end her prolific gymnastics career in style. Maloney does not have a weak event and has scored a 10.0 on three events and a 9.975 on bars.
Also back for a fifth year is Christy Erickson, who has contributed nicely to the Bruins' depth over the years on vault and floor. Perhaps even more important have been her contributions off the floor in terms of leadership and bringing what is considered UCLA's forte, "Calm confidence".
Christie Tedmon had a tremendous junior season, breaking into the post-season line-ups on vault and beam. She averaged 9.8+ on beam during the year, including 9.83 in UCLA's four post-season meets. She was a vital lead-off performer on vault after re-learning a new vault midway through the year.
Rounding out the senior class is Kisha Auld, a vault specialist who performs a difficult Tsukahara layout full vault. She holds a career-high of 9.875.
Leading the junior class is two-time Olympian Kate Richardson. After a very successful sophomore season in which she earned four All-America honors and won the Pac-10 floor exercise title, Richardson made a triumphant return to elite competition, earning an Olympic team berth. At the Olympics, she not only qualified for the all-around finals with the 14th-highest preliminary score, but she made history by becoming the first Canadian woman to qualify for the floor exercise finals at the Olympic Games.
Classmate Jennifer Sutton is coming off a pre-season injury and is unlikely to compete this season. But if she does return, look for her to compete on vault, where she saw action in four meets last season, with a high of 9.65.
The sophomore class looks strong again in 2005. In 2004, Ashley Peckett and Lori Winn saw all-around action regularly throughout the season and made huge contributions in the post-season. Peckett, a two-time World Championships competitor for Canada, is an extremely consistent competitor, particularly on floor, where she averaged 9.84, and vault, where she averaged 9.875 with a high of 9.95. Winn, a former U.S. National Team member, was the Bruins' steady leadoff on beam, where she averaged 9.788 with a high of 9.925. She also performed consistently on vault, averaging 9.813, and floor, where she averaged 9.816. This season, the Bruins are once again looking to Winn to be a strong all-around competitor.
Courtney Walker had an auspicious start to her UCLA career, suffering an ankle injury in the season opener. As a result, she was only able to compete in one additional meet. Bruin head coach Valorie Kondos Field is excited that Walker has regained her form that made her the 2003 Level 10 regional all-around, vault and bars champion.
Walk-on Michelle Selesky has worked extra hard in the off-season to learn new skills, including a new 10.0 start value vault, a Yurchenko layout full. Selesky has outstanding power and height on her vaults and in her tumbling and will be a much-welcomed addition to the regular lineup.
The 2005 newcomers are expected to make big contributions, starting with 2000 Olympian Tasha Schwikert. Schwikert is a two-time U.S. national all-around champion and has won six national titles in her career. She was also the team captain of the United States' historic 2003 World Championship gold medal-winning squad. Powerful and charismatic, Schwikert is expected to step in immediately and make a similar impact in the collegiate world. Her younger sister Jordan Schwikert, also a freshman, will also see significant action. She was the runner-up in the all-around and on bars at the 2004 Level 10 nationals and the Region 1 uneven bars winner. Jordan was a U.S. national team member from 2001-2002 before a back injury kept her sidelined for all of 2003. The coaching staff and team members are enjoying watching Jordan's return to her pre-injury form. Her talent and abilities appear endless.
Similarly, two-time U.S. national team member Lindsey Vanden Eykel had a injury-laden career as an international elite but is now regaining her form that saw her win two national titles on uneven bars and place fifth in the all-around at the 1999 and 2000 USA Junior Championships. Vanden Eykel has impeccable form and grace, particularly on uneven bars.
Sophomore walk-on Emily Hanson rounds out the newcomers. Hanson transferred from the University of North Texas and competed Level 10 last year.
"My initial thoughts coming into our pre-season were that this was going to be a 'rebuilding year'," said Kondos Field. "With every week that has gone by this fall, our athletes have gotten healthier and stronger. Old injuries are healing and competitive attitudes are starting to show. It's looking more like we have 'reloaded' and are ready to challenge for another national title."