2016 Pac-12 gymnastics year in review
SAN FRANCISCO--The Pac-12 had another strong year in women’s gymnastics, with four teams participating in the NCAA Semifinals and seven of the eight Conference teams being ranked in the top 25 in the nation in the final rankings.
UCLA continued its legacy of national titles on the balance beam as Danusia Francis captured the Bruins’ third beam national title in the last six years. In addition to Francis, seven other Pac-12 gymnasts earned All-America honors at the NCAA Championships. In thier 19th Super Six appearance, UCLA finished in fifth place (196.825), while UTAH, STANFORD, and CALIFORNIA all competed in the NCAA Semifinals but did not advance to the Super Six.
The Golden Bears of CALIFORNIA made their first appearance at NCAA Championships in 24 years, and did so without sophomore standout Toni-Ann Williams who was busy qualifying to represent Jamaica at the 2016 Olympics. Even without their star, CALIFORNIA finished 7th in the nation overall and just missed qualifying for the Super Six. The best finish in program history was a fitting end to a record-breaking season for the Bears.
In addition to the team’s success, CALIFORNIA coaching duo Justin Howell and Liz Crandall-Howell were recognized with the nation’s highest honors after leading the Golden Bears to their best-ever seventh-place finish and first NCAA appearance since 1992. Howell was voted the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women (NACGC/W) National Head Coach of the Year, and Crandall-Howell is the Assistant Coach of the Year.
UCLA claimed the 2016 Pac-12 Women’s Gymnastics Championship, winning the title for the 17th time in school history, and the first time since 2012. The Bruins recorded a 197.250 to capture first place overall. OREGON STATE and UTAH tied for second place, each scoring 196.925 total team points.
CALIFORNIA rounded out the top four with a 196.725, while STANFORD took home fifth with a 196.125. ARIZONA placed sixth earning a 195.525, and WASHINGTON (195.300) and ARIZONA STATE (191.725) took home seventh and eighth place, respectively.
The lower four seeds entering the Pac-12 Championships competed in the first session, leaving UTAH, UCLA, CALIFORNIA and OREGON STATE to compete for the title in the later session. In the first session, STANFORD performed best, scoring a 196.125, but it was only enough to get them fifth place overall as all four teams competing in the second session bested the Cardinal’s team total.
UCLA’s victory was truly a team effort as eight different gymnasts had at least one score of 9.90 or better. Sophomore JaNay Honest was part of a three way tie for the bars individual title, scoring a 9.90 on the event and senior Danusia Francis was part of a four-way tie to claim part of the beam championship with a 9.95. Sadiqua Bynum’s 9.90 on floor also put her tied for second place in the event. UCLA won two team event titles en route to the championship, winning with a 49.300 on bars and a 49.575 on beam.
The other two event titles were won by UTAH, who tied with OREGON STATE for second place overall. The Utes took first on vault with a 49.400 and first on floor with a 49.475. The Utes also claimed the all-around title, as senior and Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year Breanna Hughes took the crown with a 39.550. Hughes’ impressive night also saw her win the Pac-12 vault title with a 9.975. UTAH took home a share of the Pac-12 individual titles on the beam and floor as well.
In a vote by Conference coaches, STANFORD’s Elizabeth Price has been named the Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year after taking home Pac-12 Specialist of the Year honors last season. UTAH freshman Sabrina Schwab was named the Pac-12 Freshman/Newcomer of the Year. CALIFORNIA head coach Justin Howell was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. And UTAH’s Kassandra Lopez has been named the Specialist of the Year. The Gymnast of the Year and Coach of the Year awards were started in 1987, the Freshman of the Year was added in 2000 and the Specialist of the Year honor was added in 2014.
Utah’s Breanna Hughes was named Pac-12 Women’s Gymnastics Scholar Athlete of the Year. Hughes holds a 3.965 GPA and double-majors in Human Development and Family Studies and Health, Society, and Policy.