Jan. 6, 2003
SALT LAKE CITY -
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Two perennial gymnastics powers square off on Fri., Jan. 10 at 7:00 p.m. in the Huntsman Center, when Utah, ranked No. 4 in the preseason coaches poll, hosts No. 1 ranked UCLA in the Smith's Challenge Cup ... It is the season opener for Utah, which has won a record 10 national championships. UCLA, winner of three NCAA titles, two in the last three years, is 1-0 after a 197.60-195.675 win over Oregon State on Jan. 2 ... On the line is the nation's longest home court win streak (see The Streak)-now holding at 23 years and 170 dual meets.
The Ute gymnasts will sign posters on the Huntsman Center floor immediately following their meet on Friday. It will be Utah's only autograph signing session of the year.
The Utah gymnastics team owns rights to the longest regular season home win streak in the nation-for any NCAA sport, men's or women's. The Utes have not lost a dual meet at home in 23 years, winning 170 in a row since losing to Cal State Fullerton and Clarion back on Feb. 20, 1979. Not a single member of Utah's current team was born the last time the Utes lost a regular season home meet. Among the national powers to lose in the Huntsman Center since 1979: UCLA, Georgia, Alabama, Michigan, Florida, Arizona State, Nebraska, Penn State, LSU, Oregon State, Stanford and Brigham Young. In the last 15 years, just three opponents have come within a point of Utah in a regular season home meet (BYU by 0.5 in 2000 and 0.55 in 2001, Oregon State by 0.75 in 1996 and Michigan by 0.75 in 2001). Including regionals and nationals, Utah's all-time home record is 325-15 (96%).
PRACTICE TIMES & INTERVIEW POLICY
Monday, Tuesday and Thursday starting at 1:30 p.m. in the Dumke Gymnastics Center. All practices are open to the public. Media interested in interviews should plan to be in the Dumke Gymnastics Center 30 minutes before practice begins. Interviews must be completed by the start of practice. Call sports information director Liz Abel at 801-581-3511 to arrange interviews.
Utah was ranked No. 4 in the preseason coaches poll issued on Jan. 1. The complete rankings with points and first-place votes follow: 1. UCLA 752 (20), 2. Georgia 712, 3. Alabama 702 (5), 4. Utah 695 (4), 5. Nebraska 645 (1), 6. Michigan 627 (1), 7. Stanford 570, 8. Florida 492, 9. LSU 486, 10. Arizona 444, 11. Minnesota 407, 12. Oklahoma 388, 13. Oregon State 355, 14. Iowa 336, 15. Arizona State 333, 16. Denver 332, 17. Washington 268, 18. Iowa State 257, 19. Penn State 222, 20. Missouri 144, 21. West Virginia 138, 22. Kentucky 92, 23. Brigham Young 89, 24. North Carolina 65, 25. Maryland 62.
UTE RETURNER NOTES
Utah returns six letterwinners and five All-Americans from its 2002 team that won the NCAA West Region, won the qualifying session of NCAA Championships' competition and placed fourth in the NCAA team finals ... Senior Theresa Kulikowski
, a three-time NCAA champion and 12-time All-American, is Utah's top returner. Kulikowski won the 1999 NCAA all-around and balance beam titles as a freshman and was also the NCAA beam champion in 2001. She finished third in the all-around at last year's NCAA Championships after winning the afternoon session. She was also an All-American on every individual event in 2002 ... Juniors Melissa Vituj
and Veronique Leclerc
are Utah's other two 2002 All-Americans: Vituj on floor, vault and beam and Leclerc on bars. Vituj was a first-teamer on floor and her other awards, as well as Leclerc's, were second-team ... Seniors Kylee Wagner
(beam 2001) and Kim Allan
(beam 2000) also own second-team NCAA All-America status. Wagner received a medical hardship extension after injuring her ankle in the first meet of 2002 and missing the remainder of the season ... Sophomore Annabeth Eberle
, one of Utah's top three all-arounders by the end of her freshman year, was the 2002 NCAA West Region vault champion. Also returning for Utah is sophomore Gritt Hofmann
, who missed all but one meet last year due to injury.
UTE NEWCOMER NOTES
Five freshmen, hope to eventually fill the holes left by graduated seniors Shannon Bowles
, Deidra Graham
and Lindsay Tanner
. Best known of the newcomers is 2000 Canadian Olympian Crystal Gilmore
of Cambridge, Ontario. She has been a member of the Canadian National team since 1998 and was fifth in the all-around at the 2000 Canadian Championships ... Kristen Riffanacht
of Cheshire, Conn., is a two-year international elite gymnast, who placed ninth in the all-around and second on vault at the 2002 Junior Olympic national championships ... Two-year Level 10 national qualifier Natalie Nicoloff
of Hermitage, Pa., was the 2002 Level 10 region balance beam champion ... Dominique D'Oliveira
, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa, and a member of the South African National team, broke her ankle over the holidays and is out for 6-8 weeks ... Gabriella "Gabby" Onodi, arrived in Salt Lake City on Dec. 25 and has recently begun training after a one-month layoff following the World Championships. Onodi, a member of the Hungarian National team since 1995, was the Hungarian national champion from 1999-2001.
Utah leads the series with UCLA by a count of 32-9, but UCLA has won the last four dating back to April 14, 2000, when UCLA and Utah finished 1-2 at the NCAA Championships ... Utah's last victory against the Bruins was in Salt Lake City on Feb. 14, 2000.
Freshman Dominique D'Oliveira
broke her ankle over the holiday break. She had surgery on Dec. 31 that required two pins to be inserted into her ankle. She should be cleared to swing bars sometime this week and could conceivably return on that event by the end of the season.
UTAH COACH GREG MARSDEN
, the most successful coach in collegiate gymnastics history, is in his 28th year at the U. He is college gymnastics' only 700 win coach (764-119-5). In regular season competition, Marsden is 378-51-2. He has spent his entire career at Utah and has won 10 national championships, double that of any other coach. Four of those titles came in the '90s (1990, '92, '94, '95). Fifteen of his teams have placed in the top-three at the national championships, most recently in 2000 (second). Marsden is a seven-time National Coach of the Year recipient.
Ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll ... 1-0 ... defeated Oregon State 197.60-195.675 in a dual meet in Kanoehe, Hawaii, on Jan. 2 ... junior Jamie Dantzscher won the all-around (39.775), floor exercise (10.0) and tied for first on bars with senior teammate Onnie Willis (9.95). Willis also won vault (9.95) and was second all-around (39.65) ... UCLA returns 13 gymnasts, eight of them All-Americans and three of them NCAA champions, from its 2002 squad. Willis and Dantzscher won the NCAA all-around title in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Dantzscher also won the floor exercise and vault titles at the 2002 NCAA Championships. Junior Yvonne Tousek won the 2001 NCAA uneven bar championship as a freshman. The Bruins, who won the 2000 and 2001 NCAA Championships before finishing third last year, boast four Olympians on their team: Dantzscher and sophomore Kristen Maloney competed for the United States in the 2000 Olympics, Tousek was a 1996 and 2000 Canadian Olympian, and freshman Kate Richardson was a member of the 2000 Canadian Olympic team. Junior Alyssa Beckerman was an alternate to the U.S. Olympic team in 2000. Head coach Valorie Kondos Field is 248-52 in her 13th year as head Bruin coach.
"This meet should be fun for both our athletes and our fans. It's always a good thing to measure yourself early against a team of UCLA's caliber so you have a good idea of what you need to do to be among the best at the end of the season. On paper, we don't match up with UCLA, but I know our team is determined to perform well so it should be exciting for everyone involved.
"I'm anxious for our freshmen to experience their first college meet. Several of them have never even seen a college competition. It is critical that they to make an increasingly important contribution as the season goes on and this is the first step in that process.
"Because of Theresa Kulikowski's
past injury problems, we've decided to bring her back slowly in tumbling and vaulting just to make sure she's absolutely ready to do her best on those events. (Kulikowski will compete on bars and beam this Friday). As was the case last year, she should be back in the all-around by mid-season."
2003 UTE SCORECARD
Kim Allan, Sr.
Former Canadian National team member is scheduled to go all-around ... balance beam All-American as a freshman in 2000 came back from Achilles surgery last year after missing most of 2001 season.
Dominique D'Oliveira, Fr.
South African National team member broke her ankle while home for the holidays and will miss 6-8 weeks ... hopes to return on at least bars before season's end.
Annabeth Eberle, So.
Former U.S. National team figures to be one of country's best all-arounders after great freshman year ... peaked in 2002 postseason, 'hitting' all 12 events and scoring career-best 39.325 to finish sixth all-around at NCAA West Region ... won NCAA region vault title with career-best 9.925 ... 39.075 and 39.225 all-around scores at NCAA Championships.
Crystal Gilmore, Fr.
2000 Canadian Olympic team member is still getting her routines in shape, but should make a big impact as the season progresses ... helped Canada to best-ever ninth-place team finish in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
Gritt Hofmann, So.
Former German National Team joined Utes for second semester of freshman year and competed just once due to injuries ... she has also struggled with shoulder problems this preseason but plans are for her to vault on Friday.
Theresa Kulikowski, Sr.
Former U.S. National Team member and 1996 U.S. Olympic alternate is 12-time NCAA All-American, three-time NCAA champion and two-time NCAA runner-up ... 1999 NCAA all-around and balance beam champion and 2001 NCAA balance beam champ ... Utah team captain ... has won 98 event and/or all-around titles ... 11 career 10.0's ... has "hit" 137-149 (92%) of her career routines ... voted one of Utah's Top-25 female athletes of all-time ... has seven of Utah's top 10 all-around scores ... graduated with 4.0 GPA last May and is currently pursuing physical therapy degree ... voted 2002 Verizon Academic All-American Team Member of the Year.
Veronique Leclerc, Jr.
Former Canadian National team member is a two-time NCAA All-American on the uneven bars ... ready to emerge as one of team's best all-arounders ... 15 career victories ... has "hit" 73-82 career routines.
Natalie Nicoloff, Fr.
Two-year Level 10 national qualifier ... 2002 Level 10 region balance beam champion also placed third on floor ... best events are vault, beam and floor.
Gabriella Onodi, Fr.
Hungarian National team member since 1995 arrived in Salt Lake City on Dec. 25 and has recently begun training after one-month layoff following World Championships in late November ... Hungarian national champion from 1999-2001.
Kristen Riffanacht, Fr.
Three-year qualifier to Junior Olympic national championships and two-year international elite qualifier could compete on up to three events this Friday ... ninth all-around and second on vault at 2002 J.O. national championships.
Melissa Vituj, So.
Six-time All-American ... will go all-around this Friday ... has "hit" 89-95 (94%) of her career routines ... won first-ever collegiate all-around competition, scoring 39.575 vs. Arizona on Jan. 18, 2002 ... career-best 39.625 on Mar. 23 is tied for ninth in school history ... placed eighth all-around at 2002 NCAA West Regional with 39.300.
Kylee Wagner, Jr.
2001 balance beam All-American received additional year of eligibility for medical hardship after ankle injury in first meet caused her to miss remainder of 2002 season ... three-event specialist (vault, beam and floor) in the past hopes for eventual all-around position after successful shoulder surgery last summer.
LIVE STATS AND VIDEO ON 'NET
Live stats for all Ute meets, home and away, will be posted on Utah's web site at www.UtahUtes.com. All home meets will also feature live video streaming for people with high speed Internet access. To watch the meet live, go to Utah's web site and choose the gymnastics page. The live stats can be found under Follow the Utes/Real Time Stats. The video streaming can be accessed through Gymnastics Multi-Media/Streaming Video.
Utah, the highest drawing gymnastics team in NCAA history, won its 19th attendance crown in 21 years in 2002. The Utes averaged 9,921 fans to their six home meets, led by a crowd of 14,285 for their regular season finale vs. BYU. Since 1992, Utah's regular season home attendance has never dipped below 9,500 and its 10-year average is over 10,000 fans per meet. That is more than any other gymnastics team has averaged in a single season. Utah holds the record for the top five season attendance averages ever by a gymnastics program, including a single-season best 13,164 in 1993. Utah also has nine of the top 10 single meet attendance records. The Utes hosted the largest crowd ever to watch a collegiate gymnastics meet in the United States-15,238 vs. Cal State Fullerton in 1991.
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
Utah is the only gymnastics program in the nation to qualify for every national championship since it became a varsity sport back in 1975-76. The Utes have qualified for 27 straight national meets and are the only program to qualify for all 21 NCAA Championships. Utah has won a record 10 national championships (1981-86, 1990, 1992 and 1994-95). The Utes have never finished lower than 10th in the nation.