NCAA GYMNASTICS: Schwikert focuses on title

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UCLA's Tasha Schwikert spent most of the 2006 gymnastics season attacking her rehab from shoulder surgery with vigor.

This year, she has reset her determination on something she is more familiar with - her gymnastics. Schwikert enters the NCAA Championships as the only gymnast ranked in the top 15 in every event and in the all-around. Schwikert is third in the all-around (39.525), vault (9.945) and beam (9.920), ninth on floor (9.910), and 11th on bars (9.900).

The 2000 Olympian won the all-around in 2005, then returned in time last year to qualify on the vault as an individual, and finished 11th.

"I feel like I'm ready to reclaim the title," Schwikert said of the all-around crown that will be decided today.

Schwikert was slowed during the middle of the 2007 season with Achilles' tendon issues that kept her out of floor for six meets. She recovered in time to win her second Pac-10 all-around title in three years with a 39.75, and won the floor title with a 9.95. She followed that performance by winning the all-around title at the region championships with a 39.525. She also tied for first on floor with a 9.9 and balance beam with a 9.825.

Her floor score clinched the region championship for the Bruins, edging LSU 195.975-195.900, and gave her eight region titles, which tied the school record held by Jamie Dantzscher.

Schwikert has some of the most difficult routines in the country, but she is amazingly consistent hitting, 48 of 49 routines this year, including the last 47 in a row.

Schwikert, whose younger sister Jordan is also a key member of the Bruins' squad, hasn't scored less than a 9.85 on the floor and exemplifies the choreography UCLA is well-known for, thanks to the know-how of coach Valorie Kondos-Field.

"She is the African queen, that is the concept I built her routine around," Kondos-Field said. "She rules the jungle, and she is the queen."

Sitting out such a long streak of meets hasn't affected Schwikert, she said.

"It's just an ongoing thing with my Achilles'," she said. "I'll have both my ankles taped, but the routine feels great."