UCLA Wins Pac-10 Gymnastics Championship

March 21, 2009

Stanford, Calif. - 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 scored 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. Senior Ariana Berlin got things going with a leadoff score of 9.825. In just her second competitive beam routine of her career, Mizuki Sato earned a career-high 9.775. Niki Tom provided UCLA with a third strong routine, sticking her double twist dismount for a 9.875. Vanessa Zamarripa made it 4-for-4 with a beauty of a routine, scoring a career-high 9.9, and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs clinched the team title with a 9.9. Aisha Gerber's 9.825 was icing on the cake as the Bruins improved their beam score to 49.325.

'We fought hard and never gave up,' said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. 'They literally played hard to the very end. They've been in enough siutations over the season that they've learned it's not over till the last person competes, and I'm thrilled we were able to have our best beam performance here at Pac-10s having to hit to win.'

Stanford had finished its meet in the sixth rotation, closing on floor with a 48.775 for a final total of 196.525. The Cardinal had been cruising up to that point when its third and fourth gymnasts fell, opening the door for both UCLA and Oregon State. The Beavers scored 49.275 on bars to also vault ahead of the Cardinal.

The Bruins opened the meet with a 49.0 on floor. Sato had a huge leadoff routine, nailing her 2.5 twist opening pass and sticking her double pike past pass. Zamarripa had another charmer, scoring 9.825. Berlin bounded out a little on her middle 2.5 twist pass and recorded a 9.775. Gerber hit her full-in opening pass but fell back on her double pike last pass, scoring 9.3. Brittani McCullough had a great routine that scored 9.85, and Hopfner-Hibbs scored 9.7 after stepping out of bounds on her double Arabian.

UCLA moved to vault in rotation four and scored 49.3. Sato led off with a powerful vault and hopped back, scoring 9.825. McCullough took a step back on her vault and scored 9.85. Berlin hit a big vault for a career-high tying 9.9. After Gerber's 9.775, Hopfner-Hibbs recorded a 9.85, and Zamarripa had two tiny steps back on her otherwise perfect vault, scoring 9.875.

After a bye, the Bruins returned to competition on bars in the sixth rotation and got started with a 9.825 from McCullough, who stuck her blind half to double back dismount. Gerber nearly fell off the uneven bars on her Jaeger but held on by taking extra swing. Berlin hit another big routine, scoring 9.85. Zamarripa held her handstands nicely but took two small steps back on her double layout dismount, scoring 9.8. Hopfner-Hibbs hopped on her double front dismount, scoring 9.725. And junior Anna Li finished things off on bars with a big routine punctuated by a stuck double layout dismount. She netted a score of 9.9, tying her season-best and tying for first place.

Zamarripa was UCLA's top all-arounder, scoring 39.4 to place third. Berlin scored 39.35 to place fourth.

The Bruins also won several awards, with Hopfner-Hibbs earning Pac-10 Freshman/Newcomer of the Year honors and Berlin winning Pac-10 Scholar-Athlete of the Year distinction for gymnastics. Oregon State's Mandi Rodriguez won Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year, and Stanford's Kristen Smyth was named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year.

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