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GYMNASTICS

A Rewarding Finish for Busy Dantzscher

April 21, 2002|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Jamie Dantzscher ran out of energy after competing in every event for three consecutive days at the NCAA women's gymnastics championships. The UCLA sophomore also ran out of adjectives to describe her elation at winning the vault title and sharing the floor exercise title with Nicole Arnstad of Louisiana State Saturday at Coleman Coliseum.

"I was half dead, but I made it through," said Dantzscher, who had won the all-around championship Thursday.

"Winning two events was really cool."

The season, she said, was "really cool." Coming back to win the vault after she ended her dismount from the balance beam in a sitting position was cool too.

"I was nervous on my second vault," she said. "I had no idea where I was. I got lucky."

Which, of course, was cool too.

But if Dantzscher couldn't find new ways to describe her feats, she and her Bruin teammates found new ways to rebound in Saturday's individual event finals 24 hours after their two-year reign as team champion had been ended by Alabama.

Although Andree Pickens of Alabama won the uneven bars title, Doni Thompson of UCLA was second, Onnie Willis was third, and defending champion Yvonne Tousek and Dantzscher shared fifth place with Alexis Maday of Iowa and Theresa Kulikowski of Utah. Willis also shared sixth place in floor exercise.

On the beam, which was won by Michigan sophomore Elise Ray, Alyssa Beckerman of UCLA finished in a tie for seventh, and Dantzscher was 13th.

Ray, last year's all-around co-champion, won with a smooth, assertive routine that earned her a 9.925, just ahead of Alabama's Jeana Rice (9.912).

Minutes after her faulty dismount from the beam, Dantzscher had to switch her focus to the vault, where she was the last competitor. She appeared to take a small step on each of her two vaults--each competitor performs two different vaults, and the six scores are averaged after the high and low scores are discarded--but she got three perfect 10s for the second vault. Her winning score was 9.9565, edging Marline Stephens of Georgia (9.505) and Pickens (9.9250).

LSU's Arnstad was a dynamo on floor exercise, earning a 9.95. Dantzscher also was a vision of controlled power and excellent technique, which also earned her a 9.95.

Pickens, who finished in a tie for sixth on the floor, won the final event, the uneven bars. She scored a 9.925--and, unlike Thursday's team preliminary, when she hit her face on the bar, she emerged unscathed.

"I'm glad I have all my teeth," she said, joking through her tears.

"It's been four great years. I was just excited to have a routine I didn't hit my chin on ... Just to finish my career this way, I'm happy.''

The Bruins believe their strong showing bodes well for regaining supremacy next season.

"It's a great way to go out," Thompson said. "Our team has no regrets, and that's the best way to end the season."

Said Willis: "We were not the championship team we wanted to be, but by the end, we got things together."

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