UCLA To Compete At Pac-10 Gymnastics Championships Saturday

March 17, 2009

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This Week -- Seventh-ranked UCLA (11-3) will head up north to Stanford, CA for the 2009 Pac-10 Conference Championships. The Bruins have won a Pac-10 record 13 team titles in 22 years. The Championships will take place at Maples Pavilion on Saturday, Mar. 21 at 4 pm.

Coverage -- The meet will be televised on a delayed basis by Fox Sports Net. Providing the call will be Jim Watson and 1996 Olympic gold medalist Amanda Borden. Check UCLABruins.com during the week for possible live event coverage.

Rotation Order -- The Bruins will begin the meet on a bye before kicking off competition in the second rotation on floor exercise. After floor, the Bruins will have another bye, then move to vault, a bye, bars and then will end of balance beam. UCLA won its last championship with this exact draw in 2007, scoring 49.425 on beam in the final rotation to claim the title. The rotation order for the championships was determined by blind draw a year prior to the meet.

Pac-10 Championship History -- With 13 Pac-10 titles (1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007), UCLA has won the most conference championships. Stanford (1998, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008) and Oregon State (1991, 1992, 1994, 1996) are the only other teams to win Pac-10 titles. UCLA and Stanford have dominated in the last 12 years, however, with the Bruins winning seven and Stanford five in that span.

UCLA has dominated in the individual championships as well, with a conference-best 68 individual championships. The Bruins have been especially dominant in the all-around, winning 16 titles, including 10 in the last 12 years (includes ties). UCLA gymnasts have won 16 titles on bars, 14 on floor, and 11 on vault and beam.

Bruin junior Anna Li won a share of the beam title in 2007, scoring a career-high 9.95. She is one of five returning Pac-10 champions, joining 2007 vault co-champion Ashley Houghting of Washington; 2008 beam co-champions Jami Lanz of Oregon State and Carly Janiga of Stanford; and 2006 and 2008 vault and floor champion Tasha Smith of Oregon State.

Last Year At Pac-10s -- Down by just .15 heading into the final rotation, the Bruins had a chance to repeat as Pac-10 champions but instead had to count a fall on floor exercise and finished third behind champion Stanford and runner-up Oregon State. Ariana Berlin led the Bruins with a third-place all-around showing, scoring a season-high 39.4 despite competing leadoff on each event. Tasha Schwikert won a share of the bars title with a 9.95 for her seventh career conference crown.

Conference Awards To Be Handed Out -- Conference awards for Gymnast of the Year, Freshman/Newcomer of the Year and Coach of the Year will be handed out at the conclusion of the Pac-10 Championship meet. UCLA has won 11 of the last 12 Gymnast of the Year awards and a total of 16 in 22 years. Head coach Valorie Kondos Field has won Pac-10 Coach of the Year three times (1995, 2000, 2003). UCLA has produced five conference Freshmen/Newcomers of the Year since the inception of the award in 2000 - Brittani McCullough in 2008, Ariana Berlin in 2006 (shared with Jami Lanz of Oregon State), Tasha Schwikert in 2005, Kate Richardson in 2003 and Doni Thompson in 2000.

In The Rankings -- The Bruins still hold the third-highest season average in the nation (196.423) and remained ranked No. 7 in the national rankings with a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) of 196.480. The Bruins rank No. 1 on vault (49.430), No. 6 on bars (49.220) and tied for eighth on beam (49.105) and floor (49.195).

Vanessa Zamarripa ranks first on vault for the fourth consecutive week with a 9.955 RQS. Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs ranks 15th in the all-around (39.355) and 13th on floor (9.890). Aisha Gerber is tied for 10th on beam (9.885) and ranks 21st on vault (9.880). Ariana Berlin is tied for 19th on bars (9.870).

UCLA, Stanford To Finally Face Off -- UCLA and Stanford will meet for the first time this year at the Pac-10 Championships. The two teams were scheduled to meet in Stanford in early February, but a norovirus breakout amongst the Bruin team forced the cancellation of the meet. The Bruins beat every other Pac-10 team they have faced this season, with the Oregon State meet being the only close decision (UCLA won the meet in Corvallis on Feb. 27, 196.575-196.350).

Bruins Rally To Beat Nebraska -- The Bruins suffered two falls on the balance beam to fall behind by 0.65 going into the final rotation, but as Nebraska was suffering the same fate when it took its turn on the beam, the Bruins were rallying with an inspiring floor set that merited a season-high 49.575. The score was UCLA's highest floor total in four years. The Huskers totaled three falls on the beam and lost by a 0.775 margin, 196.625-195.850. The Bruins had four score of 9.925 or better on floor, led by Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs' career-high 9.95 and career-high marks of 9.925 from Vanessa Zamarripa, Ariana Berlin and Aisha Gerber. Hopfner-Hibbs won the all-around with a 39.5, followed closely by a 39.475 from Gerber. Zamarripa totaled three 9.9+ scores, including a 9.95 to win vault.

Hopfner-Hibbs Honored By Pac-10 -- Freshman Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs was selected as the Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week for March 10-16. The honor was her third of the season. Hopfner-Hibbs led UCLA to a come-from-behind win over Nebraska, scoring a career-high 9.95 on floor and winning the all-around with a 39.5. She also had marks of 9.875 on vault and 9.85 on bars, and, in a pressure-packed situation, hit a 9.825 on beam in the anchor slot after two of her teammates had already fallen. Her hit routine on beam kept UCLA in striking distance of Nebraska heading into the last rotation, and her 9.95 on floor helped assure the win and a team season-high total of 49.575 on the event.

Vaulting To The Top -- The Bruins rank No. 1 in the nation on vault with a RQS of 49.43 and average a national-best 49.34. In their last five meets, the Bruin vault squad has scored 49.3+, including a national-best 49.575 at Nebraska. Vanessa Zamarripa has been ranked No. 1 on vault for most of the season, including the last four weeks. She has scored 9.9 or better in nine of 10 meets and has three perfect 10s. UCLA has totaled 17 9.9+ scores and 48 9.8+ scores in 60 attempts.

Youth Is Served -- With seven freshmen and five sophomores on a 16-member squad, the 2009 Bruins are undoubtedly a young team, and they were put to the test immediately, with the underclassmen holding 22 of the 24 slots in the competitive lineup in the first two meets of the season.

The freshman class alone competed 16 of the 24 routines in the season opener. Two freshmen competed in the all-around at Utah - Aisha Gerber, who placed third in the all-around and won the balance beam, and Vanessa Zamarripa, who placed fourth in the all-around and third on vault. Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs competed on three events and earned a third-place finish on beam. Kaelie Baer hit 3-for-3 on her routines, scoring 9.8 on vault, 9.775 on beam and 9.75 on floor. Alyssa Pritchett had a successful showing as well, scoring 9.8 on vault as a last-minute substitute. Five freshmen saw action on vault - Gerber, Zamarripa, Baer, Tauny Frattone and Pritchett.

On the year, underclassmen have performed an astonishing 83% of the team's routines (199 of 240), with 54% of the team's routines (129) coming from the freshman class. Only Ariana Berlin and Anna Li have competed amongst the upperclassmen, and they have totaled 41 routines on the year (17%).

Triple Tens For Zamarripa -- Freshman Vanessa Zamarripa has scored perfect 10s on vault three times this year and ranks No. 1 in the nation on the event with a RQS of 9.955. Her first 10 came on Jan. 23 at Cal State Fullerton, and it was UCLA's first perfect score since Kristina Comforte also scored a 10 on vault at Fullerton in 2006. Zamarripa earned back-to-back 10s on Feb. 15 in a home quad meet and on Feb. 22 at Nebraska to become the first UCLA gymnast to score three perfect 10s in a season since Tasha Schwikert in 2005. She is also the first Bruin to score three 10s on the same event in one season since Jeanette Antolin had eight 10s on vault in 2004. Zamarripa has earned Pac-10 Special Performance of the Week honors three times this season and Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week honors once. She holds a season average on vault of 9.935 and has scored below 9.9 just once this year - receiving a 9.875 at Arizona.

Zamarripa is tied with Georgia's Courtney Kupets for most 10s in the nation this season, but Zamarripa is the only gymnast this year to receive multiple 10s on the same event and one of just two gymnasts to score a 10 on vault.

Berlin Brings It -- Senior Ariana Berlin remains one of the most consistent gymnasts in UCLA history, hitting 96% of her routines throughout her career. So far this season, she has hit 28 of her 29 routines, with 24 of those 29 scores going for 9.8 or better. She averages 9.85 or higher on three events (9.858 on bars, 9.856 on floor, 9.854 on vault) and has five individual titles this season, including a team-best three on bars. Two of her titles came at Arizona State on Jan. 30, when she tied her career-high on vault with a 9.9 and won the all-around in her first all-around attempt this year, scoring 39.3. Also at that meet, Berlin accomplished a feat she has been working on for three years - competing an Arabian double front on floor exercise. She performed the E-level skill for the first time in competition and hit it, scoring 9.8 to lead all Bruins on the event. Berlin had another big meet on Mar. 8 against top-ranked Georgia. After injuring her knee just three days prior to the meet, her competitive status was in major doubt, but she not only competed on all four events but scored a career-high 39.5 to take second place. Against Nebraska a week later, on her last ever performance in Pauley Pavilion, Berlin scored a career-high 9.925 on floor exercise.

Hopfner-Hibbs On A Roll -- Freshman Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs has been the model of consistency and excellence for the Bruins, hitting 32 of her last 33 routines with scores of 9.775 or better. Twenty-four of those 32 hit routines have gone for 9.85 or better. She had a streak of 24 consecutive hit routines end in UCLA's last rotation on beam at Oregon State but is now starting another streak that is now at eight in a row. Hopfner-Hibbs leads the team with 27 Top 3 finishes and ranks second with 11 individual victories, including four in the all-around. She holds a season average of 9.863 on vault and has averaged 9.91 in her last four meets. On floor, she averages 9.853, and on beam she averages 9.8, second-best on the squad. She has earned Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week honors three times this season (Mar. 17, Feb. 24, Jan. 27).

McCullough Back On Floor -- Redshirt sophomore Brittani McCullough made an emotional return to the floor exercise lineup Feb. 15, competing on floor for the first time since rupturing her Achilles tendon on the event a year ago. McCullough, who captivated the audience with her unique dance, tumbled a double pike for her opening pass and ended with a double tuck to earn a 9.675 on her routine, which was valued at 9.9. She had a career-best routine on Feb. 27 at Oregon State, tying her career-high with a 9.875. She would have had another career-high a week later against Georgia but stepped out of bounds on her opening tumbling pass, dropping her score to 9.825.

Gerber Returns As Good As New -- Freshman Aisha Gerber returned to all-around competition on Mar. 15 for the first time in nearly two months, scoring 39.475 to place second against Nebraska. Gerber achieved a new career-high on floor in that meet with a 9.925 and also had 9.875s on vault and beam. One month prior to last Sunday's meet, Gerber injured her ribs on the uneven bars after falling on top of the low bar during one-touch warmups. She attempted to compete on the event but was unable to complete her routine, getting all the way to the dismount before dropping down off the bar due to shortness of breath. She was pulled from the remaining events for precautionary reasons but returned a week later to compete on three events at Nebraska. Gerber tied for first on beam with a 9.85, tied her career-high on vault with a 9.9 and debuted a full-in on floor exercise and scored 9.825. Gerber had another successful meet at Oregon State, clinching the Bruin victory with a clutch 9.875 routine on balance beam. She returned to the uneven bars on Mar. 8 against Georgia and scored 9.8.

O Canada -- UCLA has a long history of tapping into the Great White North for gymnastics talent. With three Canadians on the Bruin squad this season - sophomore Marci Bernholtz and freshmen Aisha Gerber and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs - it has now been 16 consecutive years that UCLA has had a Canadian on the roster, with 1993 marking the last year no Canadians have graced the Bruin roster. Bernholtz has represented Canada at the 2006 and 2007 World Championships and was the alternate for the 2004 Olympic Games. Gerber competed for Canada at World Cup events, the 2006 American Cup and 2004 Pacific Alliance meet. Hopfner-Hibbs represented Canada at the 2008 Olympics, 2005-07 World Championships and 2006 Commonwealth Games, winning a bronze medal on the balance beam at the 2006 Worlds to earn Canada's first-ever World medal on the women's side.

Four of UCLA's 13 NCAA individual champions are Canadian - Stella Umeh, Lena Degteva, Yvonne Tousek and Kate Richardson.

The Streak Lives On -- Senior Ariana Berlin's streak of consecutive meets has increased to 54 after competing all-around against Nebraska. Berlin's streak was nearly broken on Mar. 8 when her knee locked up three days before the Georgia meet, but she recovered in time to not only compete but compete all-around and score a career-high 39.5. Berlin, who joined the UCLA squad in 2006 as a walk-on who had not competed in five years, has competed in every meet of her collegiate career and has hit 96% of her routines over her career.

Looking Ahead -- The Bruins will compete at the NCAA Regionals on Apr. 4. Regional assignments will be announced on Mar. 23. The NCAA Regional hosts are Ohio State, Iowa, Alabama, Arkansas, NC State and Washington.

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