April 12, 2008
Gainesville, FL - UCLA finished in second place at the 2008 NCAA Southeast Regional Gymnastics Championships with a score of 196.625 to earn its 24th appearance in the NCAA Championships, which will take place at the University of Georgia Apr. 24-26. Also qualifying was first-place Florida, which earned 197.525. Strong all-around performances by Tasha Schwikert (39.45), Anna Li (39.425) and Jordan Schwikert (39.275), as well as big scores from three-event performer Kristina Comforte (9.9 and two 9.875s) carried the Bruins.
UCLA began the event on the uneven bars, where the team showed why it finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the nation. The Bruins had five straight stuck dismounts and totaled a 49.375. Shavahn Church started the stick parade with a stuck double tuck for a 9.825, and Jordan Schwikert matched her score with a full pirouette to stuck double pike. Kristina Comforte nailed her double layout for a 9.9, and Tasha Schwikert did as well for a 9.875. Anna Li closed it out with a huge Tkatchev and a perfectly-stuck double layout for a 9.95 that earned one 10.0 from one of the four judges. UCLA took the early lead, .275 ahead of third-seeded Nebraska, who totaled 49.1 on vault.
Balance beam did not start off as well, with Berlin suffering a rare fall, her first missed routine of the year on beam. Freshman Niki Tom showed nerves of steel following her, however, and nailed her routine for a 9.725. The judges were mixed on the routine, with two showing a 9.8 and two a 9.65. Jordan Schwikert also provided a beautiful routine with a stuck dismount, scoring 9.825. Comforte showed grace under pressure, hitting a 9.875 in the face of a roaring Florida crowd. After Tasha Schwikert scored 9.85, it was up to Li to negate the first score, and after a slight wobble on her flight series, she scored 9.825 to get the Bruins through with a team score of 49.1.
As UCLA moved to a bye in the third rotation, the other contenders moved to their second event. Florida, fresh off a 49.425 on bars, scored 49.225 on beam, while Nebraska recorded a 48.875 on uneven bars. At the halfway mark, Florida led with a 98.65, followed by UCLA with a 98.475 and Nebraska with a 97.975.
Floor exercise started off well with a strong routine by Berlin that earned a 9.75. Mizuki Sato stumbled on her middle tumbling pass but held on and nailed both her opening 2.5 twist pass and her double pike dismount to score 9.575. Jordan Schwikert provided another solid routine for a 9.8. Li stuck a beautiful double layout mount but scored just 9.825. Jenkins stepped out of bounds on her opening whip/double pike but otherwise hit the rest of her routine and earned a 9.7. Tasha Schwikert watered down her opening pass to a double tuck and did a full balancing act to keep her double pike dismount in bounds and still scored 9.8 to give the Bruins a team total of 48.875, equal to what Nebraska scored on beam.
The Bruins finished up their competition on vault with a 147.35-146.85 lead over Nebraska. Li, Jordan Schwikert and Natalie Padilla all scored 9.825s, Comforte added a 9.875, and Tasha Schwikert essentially sealed the Bruins' trip to NCAAs with a 9.925 for a team score of 49.275 and a final team mark of 196.625. Nebraska finished up on floor with a more than respectable 49.25, but they needed a 49.8 to pass the Bruins for second place. The Huskers did qualify a few individuals to NCAAs - all-arounders Emily Parsons and Desire' Sniatynski and beam and floor co-champion Tricia Woo. Also qualifying on the balance beam was North Carolina State's Leigha Hancock.
"I'm proud of the team because the night did not go smoothly, but they kept fighting," said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. "It was great to see the team fight from event to event and not give up. Every coach feels this Regional meet is the most nerve-wracking meet of the year, and we are excited to go back to Nationals."