April 15, 2003
SALT LAKE CITY -
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The 10-time national champion Utah gymnasts are headed to their 28th straight national championship after winning the NCAA North Central Region Championship on April 12 ... The 2003 NCAA Championships will be held in Lincoln, Neb., April 24-26 ... Utah is the only program to make all 22 NCAA Championships to date ...The 12 teams that have qualified for the 2003 NCAA Championships are Utah, Nebraska, Georgia, Stanford, Florida, Auburn, UCLA, Alabama, Michigan, Arizona State, Louisiana State and Iowa ... Utah's combined record against the 2003 NCAA Championships' field is 220-68-3 ... The Utes will open NCAA competition on Thursday, April 24 at 7:00 p.m. (CDT) in the Bob Devaney Sports Center on the Nebraska campus.
There are two qualifying sessions on April 24, each containing six teams. The top three teams from each session will advance to the Super Six finals on Friday, April 25. The individual event championships are April 26. Competitors must place in the top four (including ties) in their session on Thursday to qualify for individual event night.
LIVE SCORING ON THE 'NET
Live scoring from the NCAA Championships will be available on the Internet. To follow the meet in progress, log on to www.huskers.com and choose gymnastics and live stats.
The NCAA office conducted a blind draw to place teams in the two sessions of qualifying competition on April 24. Three region winners and three region runners-up are in each session. While four teams from last year's Super Six, including Utah, are in the evening session, the afternoon session is also very strong. By final national ranking, here's how both sessions look:
Session I: No. 1 UCLA, No. 3 Arizona State, No. 5 Alabama, No. 10 Michigan, No. 13. Iowa, No. 14 LSU.
Session II: No. 2 Nebraska, No. 4 Georgia, No. 6 Stanford, No. 8 Utah, No. 9 Florida, No. 17 Auburn.
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
Utah is the only gymnastics program in the nation to qualify for every national championship for the last 28 years and for all 22 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. Utah is 391-68-3 all-time in postseason competition.
Utah finished the regular season with a 7-5 record. Four of those losses were to teams that qualified for the NCAA Championships (UCLA, Arizona State, Florida and Michigan) ... In regular season play, the Utes were better on the road (4-2) than at home (3-3) for the first time in school history ... The status of Theresa Kulikowski
will determine Utah's bar and beam lineup for nationals. If Kulikowski is healthy, she will be Utah's final competitor on both events. If she cannot compete, Dominique D'Oliveira
and Kylee Wagner
will complete the bar and beam lineups ... Utah's victory leader is Melissa Vituj
(22), followed by Annabeth Eberle
(19) ... The two best all-around scores of the year are by Eberle (39.750) and Vituj (39.675 twice).
UTE PRACTICE TIMES
In Salt Lake City: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Monday (April 21), 1:30-4:30 p.m. in the Dumke Gymnastics Center. All practices are open. Media interested in interviews should plan to be in the Dumke Center by 1:00 p.m. All athlete and coach interviews must be completed by the start of practice. In Lincoln: Wed., April 23, 4:00-5:40 p.m. in the Bob Devaney Sports Center
provided the drama, Annabeth Eberle
won the all-around and Utah finished with a phenomenal beam set to win the NCAA North Central Region Championship. The No. 8 Utes, who won every individual event title and three of the four events as a team, edged out No. 6 Stanford 196.975-196.625 for the title. Kulikowski, wracked by injuries all year, was questionable right up to the start of the meet. Not to worry. She gave an incredible send-off to the Huntsman Center crowd that has cheered her every move since her freshman year back in 1999 when she won the NCAA all-around and balance beam titles. This night, "Kulio" won the bars with a 9.90 and the beam with a perfect 10.0. She shared the spotlight with sensational sophomore Eberle, who took the all-around with a steady 39.450 performance. Melissa Vituj
was a two-event winner, tying for first on the vault (9.90) and winning floor (9.925).
A blind draw determines how the teams rotate on the two nights of team competition at the NCAA Championships. Utah's rotation order for opening night is: floor, vault, bye, bars, beam, bye.
UTAH AND THE SUPER SIX
Utah has made the Super Six eight times since the format went into effect in 1993. Utah's Super Six finishes follow: 1993-3rd, 1994-1st, 1995-1st, 1996-3rd (tie), 1998-4th, 2000-2nd, 2001-5th (tie), 2002-4th. The Utes failed to make the cut in 1997 and 1999, finishing seventh both years. Although they have won two NCAA Championships under the Super Six format, the Utes' first qualifying round victory came last year.
Nine of the teams at this year's NCAA Championships are repeaters from last year: Utah, Stanford, UCLA, Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, Michigan, LSU and Florida. Back after a one-year absence is Arizona State. Auburn has made the NCAA cut for the first time since 1993 and Iowa is making its first trip to nationals. The number of NCAA Championship appearances this makes for each team follows: Utah (22), Alabama (21), Florida (21), Georgia (20), UCLA (20), Arizona State (17), Nebraska (14), LSU (14), Michigan (12), Stanford (6), Auburn (3) and Iowa (1).
NCAA HISTORY LESSON
Four teams have been crowned champion in the 21-year history of the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships: Utah (9), Georgia (5), Alabama (4) and UCLA (3). Utah's 10 total national championships includes the 1981 AIAW title ... There have been eight different runners-up at the NCAA Championships since they began in 1982: Alabama (5), Utah (4), Arizona State (4), Georgia (3), UCLA (2), Florida (1), Michigan (1) and Cal State-Fullerton (1) ... The closest NCAA Championships ever were in 1994 and 1989. In 1994, Utah edged Alabama 196.400-196.350. In 1989, Georgia nipped runner-up UCLA 192.650-192.600 ... The best score ever at nationals was Alabama's 198.025 in 1996 ... The NCAA champion has won its qualifying session seven times in the 10-year history of the three-day format: Georgia in 1993, 1998 and 1999, Alabama in 1996 and 2002, and UCLA in 2000 and 2001 ... Utah won the NCAA title in 1994 and 1995, after finishing second and third, respectively, in its qualifying round. UCLA won in 1997 after placing second in its qualifying round.
Utah has won 76-percent of its contests with teams in the 2002 NCAA Championships (220-69-3). Utah's record against each team follows (postseason record and streak in parentheses).
Alabama: 17-15 (12-10, L2)
Arizona State: 52-16-1 (32-7, L1)
Auburn: 3-0 (3-0, W3)
Florida: 23-4 (18-2, L1)
Georgia: 18-12-1 (14-11-1, L1)
Iowa: 2-0 (0-0, W2)
LSU: 23-2 (18-0, W2)
Michigan: 10-7 (6-3, L1)
Nebraska: 30-2-2 (26-2-2, W2)
Stanford: 10-1 (5-0, W4)
UCLA: 32-10 (16-8, L5)
"At a time when it's becoming increasingly difficult to qualify to the championships and in a year where we were frustrated by our inconsistency, I'm pleased that we seem to be coming together at the right time. I hope that we can continue to demonstrate our potential throughout the NCAA competition.
"It's important that we don't feel as though we've accomplished our goal but realize this is merely the first step to what we ultimately want to accomplish. We need to continue to be directed and determined as we prepare for the next challenge.
"Of course, there are many very talented teams at this year's championships. Any team's success or failure will depend on its ability to be at its best on those two nights.
"Our session will be difficult, but the other one is also tough. There will be very good teams that don't move on to the Super Six in both sessions. Since we went to a draw, I think this is probably the most evenly divided field ever in terms of session strength."