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UCLA Gymnastics Second at Pac-12 Championships

Two mistakes on beam cost the Bruins in their attempt to defend their Pac-12 Championship.

Vanessa Zamarripa is the Pac-12 All-Around Champion
Vanessa Zamarripa is the Pac-12 All-Around Champion

The UCLA Gymnastics team traveled to Corvallis with the other seven teams that compete in gymnastics in the Pac-12 to jockey for overall position in the RQS and to fight for the Pac-12 Championship. The top four teams - UCLA, OSU, Utah and Stanford - competed in the evening session and the meet came down to one terrifying event: the balance beam.

The balance beam is scariest event in women's gymnastics (in men's, it would be the pommel horse, but since UCLA no longer has a men's team... we'll never see it at the college level.) The beam is 4 inches wide, 4 feet off the ground, and 16 feet long. Gymnasts are expected to travel up and down the length of the beam, doing jumps, flips, and spins, all while not falling (big deduction) and not wavering (smaller deductions.) Your hips and shoulders need to remain centered over the beam, or your arms will flail, your hips will fly out, or your foot might miss the beam during a tumbling element.

Click here for complete results.

UCLA's day started on the uneven bars, which is an area the Bruins could still improve on but they started the meet with a look of determination. Gymnast after gymnast stuck their landing, and the scores kept going up with each competitor for the Bruins. Vanessa Zamarripa led the Bruins with a 9.95, and Sophina DeJesus and Monique de la Torre each had a 9.90. Overall as a team the Bruins scored 49.450, taking the lead after the first rotation. Utah was second on the floor with a 49.40, OSU overcame a fall on the balance beam to post a 49.275 and Stanford was fourth on the vault with a 49.05.

However, the lead was very short lived as UCLA moved onto the balance beam. Kaelie Baer had been leading off for the Bruins all season, but last night was the first time I could remember her missing. As she performed her tumbling sequence into her dismount, Baer's foot actually slipped off the beam, causing her to come up short on her landing. She didn't get dinged for a fall or not completing the element, but it wasn't done well and was scored a 9.525. Since one score is dropped, as long as UCLA didn't fall, they would be fine... except freshman Sophina DeJesus fell for I think the first time this year on the beam, scoring only a 9.1 (a fall from the beam I think is a 0.50 deduction) forcing UCLA to count Baer's 9.525. Zamarripa led the Bruins with a 9.925 and Lichelle Wong and Danusia Francis both contributed 9.850s, but there were little balance checks that dragged the scores down. UCLA only scored 48.975 on beam, too low in any capacity, and the Bruins dropped to third. After two rotations, Utah was in first with 98.875, Oregon State in second with 98.725, UCLA third with 98.375, and Stanford in fourth with 98.30.

UCLA moved to the floor in the third rotation, and this was their chance to make up some of those points. Olivia Courtney was fantastic, scoring a 9.950, which was sorely needed. Alyssa Pritchett, who has improved so much on the floor over the season, contributed another 9.90. Sydney Sawa,, who had a nice return to competition last week on floor unfortunately sat down on one of her tumbling passes and only scored a 9.100, but fortunately that score did not count. Overall, the Bruins scored a 49.45 on the floor (but this score HAS to improve as we get closer to regionals and Super Six - other schools put up monster floor scores.) After three rotations, Utah was still in first with 148.25, OSU in second with 148.175, UCLA in third with 147.875., and Stanford in fourth with 147.450. If the Bruins were going to steal this title, it would have to be with Utah and Oregon State falling in their final rotation, which was balance beam and uneven bars, respectively.

The Bruins moved to their strongest event, vault, in the final rotation. Each gymnast has the capability to score 9.80 or higher, not counting the curious addition of Sydney Sawa in the lineup, who competes with a vault at a much lower start value. I'm not sure if Dana McDonald was hurt or not warming up well, as she didn't compete on floor or vault. UCLA knew what was on the line, and they were determined to stick their landings, and it showed with a season high team score of 49.50. Vanessa Zamarripa scored another PERFECT 10 on her vault (click to watch!) to lead the Bruins, Courtney contributed a 9.950, and Baer made up for the beam with a 9.925. Meanwhile, Utah was having their own house of horrors on the balance beam, with large balance checks and a fall by Georgia Dabrtiz. That fall helped UCLA move into second place. Two of the Utah gymnasts seemed to be rattled by the cheering in the arena for the OSU gymnasts, who were having a fantastic time on the uneven bars, as OSU scored a 49.675 (CRAAZY) on the bars.

Oregon State is the new Pac-12 Champion, scoring 197.850. The Bruins were 0.50 behind with a 197.350, a new high for them on the road. Utah came in third with 197.075, and Stanford came in fourth at 196.625. Congratulations to the Beavers, who STILL haven't lost at home in nearly two years.

Congratulations to the Bruins, who stayed mentally strong and overcame a bad score on beam, kept fighting, and moved into second place.

Vanessa Zamarripa, who was named Pac-12 Gymnast of the year for the second time in her career earlier that day, won the all around with a score of 39.750, a career high. Ivana Hong from Stanford was second, with a 39.575, and Courtney was third with a 39.550. Zamarripa also won the vault and tied for first on the beam, and came in second on the bars. Courtney tied for first on the floor. Great job overall Bruins!

Regionals will be announced on Monday, and we will know where the Bruins will be placed for their next meet on April 6th.