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NCAA WOMEN'S GYMNASTICS

Bhardwaj and Tousek Cap Championship Run for Bruins

April 22, 2001|From Associated Press

ATHENS, Ga. — Two consecutive women's gymnastics championships weren't enough for UCLA.

The Bruins captured two individual titles Saturday night, fulfilling the predictions for their Olympian-packed "Dream Team."

Mohini Bhardwaj won the floor exercise, and teammate Yvonne Tousek scored the top mark on the balance beam to end a season that went exactly as it was supposed to.

"This is a great way to cap it off," said Bhardwaj, an 11-time All-American who helped UCLA to a narrow victory over Georgia for the team title Friday.

Cory Fritzinger gave the home crowd something to cheer about, winning on the vault (9.981) for Georgia. Theresa Kulikowski of Utah got the top mark (9.938) on the balance beam.

Bhardwaj clinched her title when Georgia's Suzanne Sears, the defending champion, stumbled on her final landing and finished third.

Tousek, a Canadian Olympian, kept the bars title at UCLA with a 9.938. Onnie Willis, who tied for the all-around championship Thursday, gave the Bruins a 1-2 finish at 9.912.

The Bruins featured two members of the U.S. Olympic team, Jamie Dantzscher and Kristen Maloney, as well as Tousek, who competed for Canada in Atlanta and Sydney. Dantzscher finished second on the floor; her score of 9.950 was edged out by Bhardwaj's superior tumbling routine.

UCLA had a few stumbles at the championship but managed to live up to its billing as the nation's top team.

"It's easy to hit when you're on a roll," Coach Valorie Kondos Field said. "It's not easy when you're swimming upstream. . . . And contrary to what I've been reading, we're not the Olympic team."

Bhardwaj was favored in the all-around but took third. Then, she false-started on the bars in the team final. But her missteps were forgotten after her floor performance.

"I had a very successful year all year," she said. "I was kind of upset that I executed well except when it counted most. But stuff happened, and you have to get over it. I just took advantage of what I had left."

Georgia started the three-day event hoping for a sixth national championship and a repeat floor title by Sears, competing in her final NCAA meet. Neither happened, but fans were surprised by Fritzinger's victory.

The freshman, who scored 9.881, was just as stunned. After Oregon State's Katrina Severin finished the rotation with two solid vaults, Fritzinger went to congratulate her before realizing she had won by less than two-hundredths of a point.

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