UCLA Gymnastics Captures Pac-10 Championship
March 27, 2010
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The UCLA gymnastics team reached another milestone in its elite program by winning the school's 15th Pacific 10 Conference championship Saturday evening in McKale Center.
Anna Li's perfect 10.000 on the uneven parallel bars in the final rotation clinched UCLA's championship. The Bruins' total team score of 197.350 -- the nation's highest this week -- beat out Stanford's 196.550 and Oregon State's
195.950. Rounding off the rest was Arizona (195.900), Washington (193.825), California (191.475) and Arizona State (189.525).
In a battle between the heralded senior leaders of Stanford and Oregon State, it was a UCLA sophomore that prevailed as she consistently has all season. Vanessa Zamarripa lifted the Bruins with a 9.950 vault and 9.900
beam for the first-place all-around score of 39.575. She sustains a streak of scoring 39.675 or better in five of her last six attempts -- ranking her No. 3 nationally.
After the meet, Zamarripa became only the sixth sophomore to ever win Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year -- an award the Bruins have claimed 12 of the last 14 times.
'Vanessa is the most talented athlete we've ever had,' said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos-Field. 'We've had many, many Olympians on our team. For sheer talent, she's it. She's a true student of her sport. It's hard to be that consistent. it's hard to be great. that is a true testament to her work ethic.'
Said Zamarripa on her coach's compliment: 'I think it's crazy. There are so many good gymnasts out there, especially in UCLA's history. They were all such great athletes that I look up to and saw as role models.'
The Bruins won first place in the vault (Zamarripa), uneven parallel bars (Li), and floor exercise (Brittani McCullough's 9.925); with second-place tie in balance beam (Zamarripa and Mizuki Sato's 9.900).
UCLA has won 11 all-around titles in the last 14 years.
'My accomplishment does mean a lot but winning the team championship means a lot more to me,' Zamarripa said. 'Definitely a team championship is more important.'
Stanford senior Carly Janiga, who won the all-around last year, finished in second place with 39.500. Her best result came on the floor with a 9.925 tie for first.
UCLA and Stanford have combined to win every Pac-10 championship since 1996. Oregon State is the only other team to have won a conference championship.
The reigning Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year, Oregon State senior Mandi Rodriguez, broke 9.900 on the vault and finished seventh overall with 38.825. The No. 7-ranked Beavers took first place in balance beams (Laura
Ann Chong's 9.950), and second place in the vault (Rodriguez) and uneven parallel bars (Leslie Mak's 9.950).
'For us it was tough because we kind of took ourselves out of the game once we fell on bars,' said OSU head coach Tanya Chaplin. 'But I also believe it showed the type of character and spirit our team had to come back. They finished very, very strong.'
Chaplin was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year for the fourth time in her career. OSU's Makayla Stambaugh won freshman of the year.
'It's a huge honor,' Chaplin said. 'The coaches in this conference are incredible people.'
UCLA and Oregon State combined to take first place in all events.
'I knew a month ago we were able to do this,' Kondos-Field said. 'There's a pride and energy in the team. we made mistakes but they don't let it rattle them. for coaching it's a very easy year. I'm really proud of the Pac-10.
We've taken a little dips in the last few years, but I think the Pac-10 has come out strong.'