If Jill Andrews, UCLA All-American gymnast, tries to tell you she is over the hill--as she has sometimes been heard to say--don't believe her.
A 21-year-old senior, Andrews is a bit long in the tooth for a gymnast, especially when you consider that she has been at it for 12 years and that Mary Lou Retton retired at 16 after winning the all-around title at the 1984 Olympics.
Yet Andrews is a long way from being washed up. Last year she was an NCAA co-champion on the balance beam, and this year she is having one of her best seasons.
In UCLA's first meet of the season, she scored a 38.35 in the all-around to set a John Wooden Center record and increased that record to 38.60 in the team's third meet.
In that first meet, she tied a Wooden Center record with a 9.75 in the vault and broke that record with a 9.85 in the third meet.
Also this season, she has won the all-around competition three times, placed first on the beam four times and took two seconds on the bars.
Not bad for an old-timer.
She might be approaching the crest of the hill; this is, after all, her last year in gymnastics. But she has one more goal in her sport before she starts taking that downhill slide.
She would like to get better career marks in individual events; who wouldn't?
But you can't get much better than a 9.90 in the vault, a 9.75 in floor exercise, a 9.70 in the uneven bars, a 9.80 in the balance beam and a 38.80 out of a possible 40 points in the all-around.
You can't get much better than being the top-ranked college vaulter in the nation this season, No. 4 in the balance beam, No. 2 in the all-around.
Andrews' teammate, All-American senior teammate Kim Hamilton, also has an individual goal. Last year Hamilton, who holds the national record of 9.90 in floor exercise, became the first woman gymnast to win three consecutive NCAA championships in floor exercise. Assuredly, she would like to make it four straight.
But she and Andrews, teammates for four years, have yet to help the Bruins win an NCAA title, a prize they would both like to add to their individual laurels before they get out of gymnastics.
UCLA has come so close to winning a national team championship in the last three years that it is "a huge source of frustration," Andrews said. The Bruins were third to NCAA champion Georgia in 1987, third to Alabama in '88 and second to Georgia last year by five-hundredths (.05) of a point at a meet held at Georgia's campus in Athens.
"You couldn't lose by less," said Andrews, adding:
"When we were (competing) on the balance beam, they were (doing) floor exercise. They blew out six speakers with the loud music they were playing.
"They (Georgia) did a good job, but I think there was a little hometown favoritism (in the judging)."
This year's NCAA meet will be held April 20-21 at Oregon State in Corvallis. That would be a neutral site for a showdown between Georgia and UCLA, should both teams get that far. And it's a pretty good bet that they will.
Andrews is "off to a dynamite start," said UCLA Coach Jerry Tomlinson, but his team, troubled by injuries and inexperience, has been something less than explosive. The Bruins have a 6-2 record in dual meets, having lost to Oregon State and Nebraska.
All-American Shawn McGinnis, the only other senior on the team, is out for the season because she tore ligaments in her foot. She may redshirt and return next season.
Freshman Rhonda Faehn, an alternate on the 1988 U.S. Olympic team, suffered a strained Achilles tendon and missed several meets. She has returned and posted a 9.4 in floor exercise in UCLA's last meet.
Freshman Paula Rasmussen sprained an ankle but recently came back to record a 9.2 on the balance beam.
Even the 5-foot-2-inch, 110-pound Andrews, who Tomlinson says is "built like a rock" and is seldom injured, sprained an ankle in the team's second meet of the season at Oregon State. But she has shaken off the injury and is back in top form.
Andrews said that she has been "lucky, extremely lucky" in avoiding injuries. "I'm strong, which helps prevent injuries.
"When I'm competing, (the sprained ankle) is not even a factor. I don't think about it till after the meet. It's no big deal if you get treatment after the meet and take care of it."
Tomlinson said that Andrews is "a very, very exciting gymnast to watch because of her power and intensity. She is a perfectionist.
"She is not one of the most talented gymnasts to come though here, but she is talented. She works very hard to get everything she has and works very hard to perfect (her routines)."
Tomlinson said that Andrews, a native of Cupertino, has taken on an added role of being a team leader this year. "She is assuming a role that is not always a popular one. She is doing a really good job of setting the pace, stepping in for Tanya Service." Service, an assistant coach this year, completed her eligibility after being named the 1989 Pacific 10 Conference Gymnast of the year.