UCLA To Compete At NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships Apr. 16-18
April 13, 2009
UCLA At The NCAA Championships -- Seventh-seeded UCLA (17-3) will compete for a sixth national title at the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships on Apr. 16-18 in Lincoln, NE. The Bruins begin competition on Thursday, Apr. 16 at 7:00 pm CT in the evening team preliminary session at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. Battling with UCLA for three spots in the NCAA Super Six Team Finals will be Utah, Alabama, Oregon State, Arkansas and Illinois. Competing in the afternoon session (1:00 pm CT) are Georgia, LSU, Florida, Oklahoma, Stanford and Penn State.
Championship Schedule -- The competition begins on Thursday with two preliminary sessions at 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm. The top three teams from each session will advance to the Super Six Team Finals on Friday at 6:00 pm. Individual event finals will take place on Saturday at 6:00 pm. The all-around champion and individual event finalists will be determined during Thursday's preliminaries. Individuals qualify for event finals by placing in the Top 4 (including ties) of that particular event during their own preliminary session.
Coverage -- Live scoring for all sessions will be available at NCAA.com. UCLABruins.com will also provide meet updates on the Bruins throughout the competition. The meet will be televised by CBS on May 9 from 11am-1 pm PT.
Rotation Order -- The Bruins will begin the preliminary meet on vault and will end on floor exercise. Utah begins on a bye before bars, Illinois starts on bars, Oregon State begins on beam, Arkansas starts on a bye before floor, and Alabama begins on floor. Rotating with UCLA will be individual all-around qualifier Veronica Porte from San Jose State.
UCLA's NCAA Championship History -- The Bruins have won five NCAA gymnastics titles, including four this decade. UCLA's titles were won in 1997 at Florida, 2000 at Boise State, 2001 at Georgia, 2003 at Nebraska and 2004 at UCLA. This is UCLA's 25th overall appearance in the 28 NCAA Championships. UCLA and Georgia have combined to win 11 of the last 12 NCAA titles.
Individual NCAA History -- A total of 13 Bruins have won 28 NCAA titles to rank second behind only Georgia (33) in individual NCAA titles. UCLA's NCAA champions are: Kim Hamilton (1987-88-89 floor, 1989 vault), Jill Andrews (1988 vault, 1989 beam), Stella Umeh (1995 and 1998 floor), Heidi Moneymaker (1988 bars, 1999 vault), Kiralee Hayashi (1999 beam), Mohini Bhardwaj (2000 bars, 2001 floor), Lena Degteva (2000 beam), Onnie Willis (2001 all-around), Yvonne Tousek (2001 bars), Jamie Dantzscher (2002 all-around, vault and floor; 2003 bars), Kate Richardson (2003 bars and beam, 2006 floor), Kristen Maloney (2005 vault and beam) and Tasha Schwikert (2005 all-around, 2008 all-around and bars). Two other Bruins won AIAW national titles - Sharon Shapiro (1980 sweep of all all-around and all four events, 1981 all-around and vault) and Diane Dovas (1981 bars). Shapiro remains the only gymnast ever to sweep the all-around and all four events in one year at a national championship. Hamilton is the only woman to win three consecutive floor titles. UCLA has won at least two individual titles in eight of the last 11 years and three titles in four of the last eight years. The Bruins have won a team or individual title in 11 of the last 12 years and have won more individual titles (21) in the last 12 years than any other team.
Last Year At NCAAs -- Competing in a loaded preliminary session featuring four of the top six teams in the final regular season rankings, UCLA did not qualify to the Super Six, finishing fourth behind Georgia, Utah and Stanford, who also finished in that order at the Super Six. The Bruins finished just .175 out of third place, and their score of 196.725 was higher than five of the six teams in the other preliminary session. The Bruins did well in the individual competitions, with Tasha Schwikert winning the all-around and uneven bars titles and finishing second on floor exercise. Kristina Comforte was the runner-up on uneven bars.
NCAA Championship Notes
UCLA vs. 2009 Field -- The Bruins have matched up against five of the 11 other teams in the NCAA field this season. UCLA has wins over Oregon State (twice) and Stanford and losses to Georgia, Utah and Florida.
Back To Lincoln - UCLA is already familiar with Lincoln, having competed in the Masters Classic at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Feb. 22. The Bruins lost the meet to Nebraska by a mere one-tenth of a point after two falls on the balance beam in the final rotation. Vault was a highlight for the Bruins, as they scored a national season-best 49.575, led by a perfect 10 from Vanessa Zamarripa and a 9.95 from Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs.
Runner-Up Finish Gives UCLA 25th NCAA Championship Berth - UCLA qualified for the NCAA Championships for the 25th time after placing a close second to Florida at the NCAA North Central Regional in Iowa. The Bruins found themselves in third place behind Florida and Iowa State at the halfway point after a shaky beam rotation but revved it up on their final two events, scoring meet-highs of 49.425 on both floor exercise and vault to lock up a top two finish. The Gators needed to score 49.2 on beam in the final rotation to take over first place and recorded a 49.325 to edge out the Bruins by .150. Anna Li won the uneven bars title for the third consecutive year, scoring 9.9. Vanessa Zamarripa placed third in the all-around with a 39.4.
Bruins Capture Pac-10 Title -- Needing to hit a 49.15 on beam in the final rotation to surpass Stanford, UCLA scored a season-high 49.325 to claim its 14th Pac-10 title. The Bruins recorded a team total of 196.725, outscoring second-place Oregon State (196.550) and third-place Stanford (196.525). The Bruins scored 49.0 or better on all four events and saved the best for last, conquering their beam demons in a big way with a 6-for-6 performance to take the victory. Freshman Vanessa Zamarripa was the team's top all-around finisher, placing third with a 39.4. Junior Anna Li captured a share of the uneven bars title with a season-high-tying 9.9 for her second career Pac-10 event title (she previously won the beam title in 2007).
All Eight Pac-10 Competitors Honored -- Showing that UCLA's Pac-10 win was a true team effort, all eight Bruins who competed at the Pac-10 Championships were honored with all-conference acclaim. Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs and Vanessa Zamarripa received first-team honors in the all-around. On vault, Ariana Berlin earned first-team honors, while Brittani McCullough was named to the second team. Also receiving first-team honors were Pac-10 co-champion Anna Li on bars, Aisha Gerber and Niki Tom on beam and Mizuki Sato on floor.
The All-Conference first team consists of the top six all-around competitors, plus the top three competitors in each individual event who are not among the all-around honorees. Individuals may earn All-Conference honors in multiple individual events. Scores are determined by a combination of 50 percent regional qualifying score (entire regular season composite) and 50 percent Pacific-10 Conference Championships score. The All-Conference second team consists of 10 individuals who were not honored on the first team.
Hopfner-Hibbs Named Pac-10 Freshman Of The Year -- Freshman Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs was selected as the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, UCLA's sixth honoree in the 10 years the award has been given. Hopfner-Hibbs is the highest-ranked freshman all-arounder in the nation and ranks 15th overall. She is also ranked in the Top 20 on beam and floor. The three-time Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week ranks second on the team with 11 individual wins and 30 Top 3 finishes. She holds season averages of 9.868 on vault, 9.844 on floor, 9.788 on beam, 9.717 on bars and 39.263 in the all-around. Her season-highs are 39.525 in the all-around, 9.95 on vault and floor, 9.925 on beam and 9.875 on bars.
Berlin Honored As Pac-10 Scholar Gymnast Of The Year -- Senior Ariana Berlin was honored as the 2008-09 Toyo Tires® Pac-10 Scholar-Athlete of the Year for gymnastics. She is the first Bruin gymnast and the fourth UCLA student-athlete ever to receive this award. Berlin has earned a cumulative GPA of 3.55 in World Arts & Culture (Dance concentration) and is a three-time Pac-10 All-Academic selection and two-time NACGC/W Scholastic All-American. In addition, she has earned All-Pac-10 honors three times and has hit 96% of her career routines. She has not missed a meet in her career, competing in 56 consecutive meets. This season, Berlin has recorded career-high marks of 9.9 on vault and beam, 9.925 on floor and 39.5 in the all-around and is averaging over 9.85 on vault, bars and floor.
Four Bruins Named To Pac-10 All-Academic Team -- Four members of the 2009 UCLA Gymnastics squad have been honored on the Pac-10 All-Academic team. Senior Ariana Berlin earned her third academic honor, being named to the first team with a cumulative GPA of 3.55 in World Arts & Culture (dance concentration). Sophomores Marci Bernholtz, Mizuki Sato and Niki Tom received honorable mention acclaim in their first year of eligibility.
In The Rankings -- The Bruins finish the regular season ranked No. 7 in the national rankings with a 196.580 RQS and fourth overall in season average (196.450). UCLA ranks No. 1 on vault (49.430), No. 7 on bars (49.220) and beam (49.150) and No. 11 on floor (49.200).
Vanessa Zamarripa ranks first on vault for the fifth consecutive week with a 9.955 RQS. Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs ranks 15th in the all-around (39.410), tied for 18th on floor (9.890) and tied for 20th on beam (9.875). Aisha Gerber is tied for 11th on beam (9.885), Ariana Berlin is tied for 21st on bars (9.870).
Youth Is Served -- With seven freshmen and six 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 82% of the team's routines (237 of 288), with 53% of the team's routines (152) coming from the freshman class. Only Ariana Berlin and Anna Li have competed amongst the upperclassmen, and they have totaled 51 routines on the year (18%).
Vaulting To The Top -- The nation's top-ranked vault team has scored 49.3+ in its last six meets, with a national-best 49.575 achieved at Nebraska on Feb. 22. The Bruins average 49.344 on vault and have scored 49.125 or higher in every meet. UCLA has totaled 21 9.9+ scores and 59 9.8+ scores in 72 vault attempts this year.
Vanessa Zamarripa has been ranked No. 1 on vault for most of the season, including the last five weeks. She has scored 9.9 or better in 10 of 12 meets with three perfect 10s and has not scored lower than 9.875.
The majority of UCLA's vaulters have scored 9.9 or better this season, with highs of 10.0 from Zamarripa, 9.95 from Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs and Brittani McCullough, 9.9 from Ariana Berlin, Mizuki Sato and Aisha Gerber and 9.85 from Kaelie Baer. Zamarripa and Hopfner-Hibbs have been particularly strong in the last six meets, averaging 9.925 and 9.9, respectively.
Setting The Bar -- The Bruins have been super-consistent on uneven bars in 2009, scoring 49+ in all but one meet and in 10 consecutive meets. The team posted a season-high of 49.5 on Jan. 25 against California.
Ariana Berlin holds the Bruins' highest season average at 9.854, followed closely by Vanessa Zamarripa's 9.848. Amongst those who have scored 9.9 or higher on bars this year are Zamarripa (9.95), Aisha Gerber (9.925), Brittani McCullough (9.925), Berlin (9.9) and Anna Li (9.9). The Bruins' sixth bar worker - Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs - competes world-class difficulty and has a high of 9.875.
Living And Dying By Beam -- The Bruins have been living and dying by the balance beam this season. Two of the three meets they lost this year were due to balance beam issues. At the Masters Classic in February, the Bruins had a 0.75 lead heading into the final rotation but ended up losing by one-tenth of a point after suffering two falls on the beam. A week later at Oregon State, it also came down to beam, but this time UCLA got a clutch performance by Aisha Gerber in the anchor spot to clinch the win. Needing a 9.775 to guarantee victory, she earned a 9.875 to secure the win. The beam was a killer for UCLA the week after that against Georgia, with the Bruins suffering three falls to take themselves out of the running. In a rematch with Nebraska the following week, beam nearly undid the Bruins again, as they had two falls, but Nebraska did one better with three falls, allowing the Bruins to make up ground in the final event and win. So it was only appropriate that UCLA had to hit beam in the final rotation in order to win the Pac-10 Championships. Needing to score 49.15 to pass first-place Stanford, the Bruins hit all six beam sets and finished with a season-high 49.325 to take the team title.
UCLA has scored 49+ in seven meets, scoring its season high of 49.325 at Pac-10s. The Bruins' postseason lineup has consisted of three returners in the front end and three freshmen in the back end. Senior Ariana Berlin has scored 9.9 in the leadoff position this season and has hit eight of her 10 beam routines this year. Sophomore Mizuki Sato was just inserted into the beam lineup on Mar. 15 but has delivered with three hit routines, including a high of 9.775 at Pac-10s. Sophomore Niki Tom has three beam wins this season and a high of 9.9. She has scored 9.75 or better in nine of 10 meets. The freshmen closers have each posted scores of 9.9 or better this year, with Zamarripa holding a high of 9.9, and Hopfner-Hibbs and Gerber with highs of 9.925. Gerber holds the team's highest season average of 9.818, and Hopfner-Hibbs averages 9.809.
Flooring The Judges -- The Bruins average 49.104 on floor exercise but have been surging as of late, averaging 49.31 in their last five meets, with a high of 49.575 set on Mar. 15 against Nebraska. UCLA used an excellent floor rotation worth 49.425 to pull out of third place at the halfway mark at the NCAA Regionals. Mizuki Sato's leadoff score of 9.85 ended up being thrown out after 9.875s from Vanessa Zamarripa, Niki Tom and Brittani McCullough and 9.9s from Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs and Ariana Berlin.
Hopfner-Hibbs has the Bruins' highest floor score this year with a 9.95. Berlin, Aisha Gerber and Zamarripa have scored 9.925, and Sato has a high of 9.9. McCullough and Tom have highs of 9.875. Berlin holds UCLA's highest season average at 9.85, followed closely by Hopfner-Hibbs' 9.844 and McCullough's 9.804.
Closing Strong -- In UCLA's last four meets, its best event has been its last event. The Bruins are averaging 49.425 on their last event during the last four meets, getting a 49.425 on vault at Regionals, 49.325 on beam at Pac-10s, 49.575 on floor vs. Nebraska and 49.375 on floor vs. Georgia.
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 9.927 and has scored below 9.9 just twice this year - receiving a 9.875 at Arizona and at Pac-10s.
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 35 of her 37 routines, with 30 of those scores going for 9.8 or better. She averages 9.85 or higher on three events (9.858 on vault, 9.854 on bars, 9.850 on floor) and has five individual titles this season, including 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. She also tied her career-high on vault at the Pac-10 Championships, scoring 9.9.
Hopfner-Hibbs On A Roll -- Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs has been the model of consistency and excellence for the Bruins, hitting 40 of her last 41 routines without a fall, with 28 of those routines going 9.85 or better. She had a streak of 24 consecutive routines without a fall end in UCLA's last rotation on beam at Oregon State but is now starting another streak that is now at 16 in a row.
McCullough A Postseason Rookie -- Redshirt sophomore Brittani McCullough has been part of two previous Bruin teams at the NCAA Championships but will be competing for the first time at NCAAs this season. McCullough sat out her true freshman year in 2007 after a November car accident in which she severed a tendon in her toe. She returned to competition in 2008 as a redshirt sophomore but ruptured her Achilles tendon in the Bruins' home finale in March and was unable to compete in the postseason. Finally, in 2009, she got her first taste of postseason competition, competing on three events at the Pac-10 and Regional Championships.
McCullough has been extremely consistent this season, hitting all 26 of her routines and averaging over 9.8 on all three events in which she has competed (vault, bars and floor). She has scored career-highs on all three events, posting 9.95 on vault, 9.925 on bars and 9.875 on floor.
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.
The Streak Lives On -- Senior Ariana Berlin's streak of consecutive meets has increased to 56 after competing all-around at the NCAA Regionals. 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.