UCLA Gymnastics Team Celebrates 2009 Season At Annual Awards Banquet

June 1, 2009

Photo Gallery | 2009 Highlight Video

The UCLA Gymnastics team wrapped up the 2009 season with its annual year-end banquet on Saturday evening.

Senior Ariana Berlin earned Gymnast of the Year honors after a season in which she placed fourth in the all-around at the NCAA Championships and became a four-time All-American. Berlin, who was also honored as the 2009 Pac-10 Toyo Tires Scholar-Athlete of the Year for gymnastics, competed in every meet during her four-year career (57 straight meets), hitting 96% of her routines without a fall.

Sophomore Niki Tom received the Jill Andrews Award, which honors a gymnast for her integrity in all facets of life, for the second consecutive year. Tom earned second-team All-America honors on floor exercise and first-team All-Pac-10 honors on balance beam this season. She also received Pac-10 All-Academic acclaim.

Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs was awarded the Don Shepherd Freshman Award as the Freshman of the Year. Hopfner-Hibbs, who was also the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-Pac-10 honoree in the all-around, earned four All-America honors this season and led UCLA with an all-around average of 39.282. She was the highest-ranked freshman all-around in the nation during the regular season (15th).

Vanessa Zamarripa earned the Freshman Phenom Award. The five-time All-American made a huge splash in her first season, recording three perfect 10s on vault and placing third in the nation in the all-around. Zamarripa became just the sixth Bruin ever to earn five All-America honors in one season and one of only two UCLA freshmen to do so.

Sophomore Mizuki Sato won the Break-Out Season Award. Sato, who competed almost exclusively on floor exercise as a freshman, became a regular in the vault lineup as well in 2009 and averaged 9.823, with a high of 9.9. She also scored a career-high 9.9 on floor and averaged 9.771 on the event, and by the end of the season, she earned a spot in the balance beam lineup, where she posted a career-best 9.85 at the NCAA Championships. Sato was also a Pac-10 All-Academic honoree.

Earning the newly-christened Ariana Berlin Golden Paw Award, which is given to the competitor you can always count on, was redshirt sophomore Brittani McCullough. This season, McCullough hit all 30 of her routines, averaging 9.8 or better on each of the three events in which she competed (vault, bars and floor). In her first full season competition after season-ending injuries in both 2007 and 2008, McCullough earned first-team All-America honors on floor exercise and second-team All-Pac-10 acclaim on vault.

Kristina Comforte received two awards - the Don Shepherd Leadership Award and the Kristen Maloney Heart of a Champion Award. Comforte jumped quickly into an undergraduate assistant coaching role after being forced to injury retire in early January and was a driving force in the Bruins' postseason success, particularly with her coaching on the balance beam.

Receving the Ashley Peckett Academic Scholar Award was freshman Aisha Gerber, who earned a perfect 4.0 during the winter quarter. The first-team All-Pac-10 performer on balance beam ranked third on the team with eight individual victories and 22 Top 3 finishes.

Nearly the entire team was presented with academic awards, which were sponsored by Nan & John Wooden. Nan was in attendance to present the awards to 18 team members.

The four graduating seniors - Alyssa Kitasoe, Melissa Chan, Kristina Comforte and Ariana Berlin - were also honored by both their parents and the coaches. Comforte's father VJ Comforte serenaded the seniors with a performance of 'Butterfly Kisses'.

2009 UCLA Gymnastics Awards
Don Shepherd Freshman Award - Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs
Break-Out Season - Mizuki Sato
Don Shepherd Leadership Award - Kristina Comforte
Freshman Phenom - Vanessa Zamarripa
Ashley Peckett Academic Scholar Award - Aisha Gerber
Ariana Berlin Golden Paw Award - Brittani McCullough
Jill Andrews Award - Niki Tom
Gymnast of the Year - Ariana Berlin
Heart of a Champion - Kristina Comforte

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