Strong contingent competes for 2013 Pac-12 crown

A strong season for Pac-12 gymnastics with six or more teams consistently ranked in the top 25 in the nation is in its final stages as the eight teams compete for the Conference title. UCLA, the defending Pac-12 champion, returns all but four gymnasts from last year. All-American Samantha Peszek suffered a season-ending injury prior to the start of the season, but the Bruins were undefeated through the first six weeks of competition and have held onto a top-10 ranking the entire season. UCLA also returned two All-Americans to compete this season: junior Olivia Courtney and redshirt senior Vanessa Zamarripa. Zamarripa was named the Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week four times and was one of three Pac-12 gymnasts to earn a perfect 10.0 in 2013. Zamarripa was among the top 10 in the nation in all events, including holding the No. 1 spot in the all-around. UCLA is stacked with a deep lineup, even with the loss of Peszek, as Courtney, freshman Danusia Francis and seniors Alyssa Pritchett and Lichelle Wong also own individual top-25 rankings.

The Bruins will have to fight for the league title as there is tough competition. Utah returned 10 letterwinners and five All-Americans from last year’s team that placed fifth at NCAAs. The Utes have held a top 10 national ranking all season and had just two losses and one tie. Sophomore Tory Wilson leads the nation on vault with a 9.953 season average. She posted her first 10.0 on the apparatus against California this season and will be one of the favorites in the event. Wilson was named the Pac-12 Specialist of the Week three times this season. Senior Georgia Dabritz, a two-time Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week and one-time Specialist of the Week this season, is a strong contender for the all-around title and an anchor for the Ute squad. Dabritz has a season-high all-around score of 39.525 and is among the top in the nation, including a No. 8 ranking on vault and bars and a No. 19 ranking in the all-around.


Oregon State and Stanford have been close in the national rankings all season, currently ranked at No. 9 and No. 10, respectively. The Beavers look to regain the title they claimed in 2010 after finishing third by just .400 at the Pac-12 Championships last season. Host of the championships this year, the Beavers will try to take advantage of the home crowd, but will have to hit a solid set on all four events to contend. With a senior-laden team of five individuals, the Beavers have experience that can go a long way in a meet of this caliber. OSU is led by senior Makayla Stambaugh, a four-time All-American and all-around competitor, who has been a rock for the team as she hit 39 of 40 routines this season. She also was named the Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week four times in a row this year. Stambaugh is balanced by senior All-American Melanie Jones, who is a consistent competitor on the beam and floor for the Beavers.

[Related: Utah garners top seed for Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships]

The Cardinal, led by senior All-American Ashley Morgan and sophomore All-American Ivana Hong, is experiencing a strong season with success from multiple gymnasts after coming off a fourth-place finish at the 2012 NCAA Championships. In addition to Morgan and Hong, Stanford returned five 2012 All-Americans in total, as well as sophomore Kristina Vaculik, who took off last year to prepare and compete in the 2012 London Olympics for Team Canada. Senior Nicole Dayton and junior All-American Amanda Spinner are ranked among the nation’s top 25 on various events and have helped lead the team across the board this year. With a preseason No. 3 ranking in the Pac-12 coaches poll, Stanford is proving it can contend for the top spot in the Conference.

With return trip to the NCAA championships in its sights, Washington has competed with a renewed intensity this season, having been ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation all season. Junior Aliza Vaccher and senior co-captains Paige Bixler and Lauren Rogers have been the backbone of the team, contributing nine of the 24 routines in every meet. Freshman Allison Northey has been a force in her first collegiate season, competing in three or four events every meet and was named the Pac-12 Newcomer of the Week on Feb. 19 and Feb. 25. With a team score that has consistently increased since the start of the season, the Huskies look to continue to build momentum and skill heading into the championships season.

With a new head coach this season in Justin Howell, the Cal Golden Bears have increased their team total average by over two points from the 2012 season. The team has totaled a 195 or higher four times this season, a feat it never accomplished last year. The Golden Bears could be the dark horse at this competition with strong competitors on the team such as senior Madisyn O’Brien, junior Alicia Asturias and freshman Serena Leong. With a team motto of, “Get one day better,” the Bears have worked on building up their skills and performances to the championships meet. The team has made an impact on the Cal record book this season and fans can expect a new era of Cal gymnastics to begin.

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Faced with a tough schedule this season, No. 15 Arizona has competed against nine ranked teams this season. The team ranks in the top 25 in the nation on all four apparatuses, including a No. 11 ranking on the floor exercise. The Wildcats have had to fill in different holes in the lineup due to injuries but have had different gymnasts step up all season to perform under pressure. Freshman Jessie Sisler was named the Pac-12 Newcomer of the Week in February and has become a solid competitor on the floor for the Wildcats. Senior Aubree Cristello, junior Jordan Williams and sophomore Allison Flores have been the all-around competitors for the UA, with Cristello owning a No. 14 ranking in the nation in the all-around.

Arizona State has found success during the 2013 season. The team ranks No. 25 in the nation on beam, posting a 48.597 average on the apparatus. The Sun Devils are a young team with 11 underclassmen who hold as many as 21 of the 24 lineup spots in each meet. ASU has built on the youth of its team this season and can expect big things from these gymnasts in the years to come. Sophomore Natasha Sundby has made her impact in the vault and floor lineup en route to being named the Pac-12 Specialist of the Week in January for her efforts on floor. Senior Kahoku Palafox and classmate Amelia Rew have helped guide the young team and are two of the top bar competitors for the Sun Devils.

The Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships is a premier event in the collegiate gymnastics world, bringing together some of the nation’s best teams and most talented athletes. Many of the Pac-12 teams will continue their season in the regional and national competitions to contend for the national championship this year.

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