Jan. 3, 2012
Season Opener Sunday -- The preseason No. 1 UCLA gymnastics team begins its 2012 season on Sunday, Jan. 8 with its first-ever Pac-12 matchup against conference newcomer Utah, which is ranked No. 5 in the preseason. The meet, the seventh-annual John Wooden Challenge, will take place, appropriately, at the John Wooden Center, UCLA's home venue for 2012, at 2 pm. The John Wooden Challenge honors all competing teams' academic and athletic achievements.
Tickets -- Tickets for the UCLA-Utah meet are on sale now at the UCLA Central Ticket Office. For the best value, season tickets are on sale for $30 and includes admission to all five home meets. Additionally, the center most sections will be reserved exclusively for season ticket holders up until the competition begins. Single-meet general admission tickets are also on sale at the UCLA Central Ticket Office and at Ticketmaster for $7 for adults and $5 for youth (16 and under). UCLA students are free with ID.
Fans attending the home meets should note that seating in the Wooden Center is extremely limited, and we expect to reach capacity for each meet. As a ticket purchaser, you are guaranteed admission up until 30 minutes past the advertised meet start time. At which time, if you are not in the building, we will assume you are not attending and will fill your seat with the standby line.
Live Coverage -- UCLABruins.com will host free video and audio broadcasts, as well as live scoring, of all Bruin home meets. Darren Preston and Allison Taylor will provide commentary. Fans can also get updates via Twitter by following @UCLAGymnastics and @UCLAGameday.
Promotions -- Providing pre-meet entertainment will be rhythmic gymnasts from the Los Angeles School of Gymnastics, who will perform their competition routines for Bruin fans in preparation for the upcoming LA Lights Rhythmic Gymnastics Competition. Following competition, UCLA a cappella group Scattertones will entertain the crowd. The 2012 UCLA team poster will be distributed to the first 1,000 in attendance, and meet poster programs will be available to the first 500 in attendance. The Bruin team will have a postgame autograph session following the awards ceremony.
In The Rankings -- UCLA opens the season ranked No. 1 in the preseason coaches poll for the second consecutive year. The Bruins, who finished a close second at the 2011 NCAA Championships, received 932 points and eight of 40 first-place votes, edging out defending champion Alabama, who had 17 first-place votes and 926 points total. The Bruins will face nine of the Top 25 teams in the polls this season, including five in the Top 10. Utah checks in at No. 5 in the preseason poll and received one first place vote.
Bruins, Utes Picked 1-2 In Pac-12 Coaches Poll -- In addition to being voted No. 1 in the preseason national poll, UCLA is also picked No. 1 in the Pac-12 preseason coaches' poll, receiving six of eight first-place votes. Utah, in its first year in the Pac-12, was picked No. 2 and received the other two first-place votes.
Best Of The West -- Sunday's meet between UCLA and Utah is a battle between West Coast powerhouses. UCLA and Utah are two of only four teams ever to win the NCAA Championship (Georgia and Alabama are the other two). The Bruins have captured six titles (1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2010), while Utah has won nine (1982-86, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995). Utah is the only school to have qualified for all 30 NCAA Championships, and they have finished second in three of the last six seasons. UCLA has 27 NCAA Championship appearances and 15 Pac-10 Championships.
UCLA in Season Openers -- UCLA is opening its season against Utah for the fourth consecutive year. The home team has won in each of the previous three seasons, with the Bruins winning the last home matchup in 2010, 196.600-195.125.
About The Bruins -- The Bruins return eight All-Americans from last year's NCAA runner-up squad, including reigning NCAA beam champion Samantha Peszek and 2010 NCAA vault champion Vanessa Zamarripa, who redshirted a year ago with a torn Achilles tendon. Other All-Americans back for UCLA are 10-time All-American Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, two-time honoree Aisha Gerber, 2011 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Olivia Courtney, Monique De La Torre, Tauny Frattone and Sydney Sawa. The Bruins also bring in an outstanding freshman class, led by 2010 U.S. floor exercise champion and World Championships silver medalist Mattie Larson, as well as U.S. national team member Cassie Whitcomb.
The Bruins are coached by UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame member Valorie Kondos Field. She is assisted by Associate Head Coach and 1992 Olympian Chris Waller. New to the staff in 2012 are familiar faces to Bruin fans - assistant coach Randy Lane, who helped guide UCLA to two NCAA titles and was the 2000 NACGC/W National Assistant Coach of the Year, and volunteer coach Amy Smith, who was the co-captain for UCLA's 1997 NCAA championship team.
About The Utes -- Utah returns four All-Americans - Stephanie McAllister, Kyndal Robarts, Mary Beth Lofgren and Corrie Lothrop - from last year's fifth-place NCAA team. Also returning for the Utes is 2008 Canadian Olympian Nansy Damianova. The Utes are coached by Greg and Megan Marsden.
The Series With Utah -- Utah holds a 24-3 regular season record against the Bruins, with UCLA's only three wins coming on Jan. 9, 2010 in Pauley Pavilion (196.6-195.125); Jan. 10, 2003 in Utah (197.225-196.75 to snap the longest home-court winning streak in the history of NCAA sports); and on Jan. 21, 2001 in Los Angeles (197.5-195.7). UCLA has, however, won the last three postseason matchups and four of the last five meetings overall.
Sawa Out With Shoulder Injury -- Sophomore All-American Sydney Sawa underwent shoulder surgery on Jan. 3 but could return by the end of the season.
Scholastic All-Americans -- Seven UCLA gymnasts were named NACGC/W Scholastic All-Americans for 2010-11, the most by a Bruin team since eight were honored in 2004. The returning athletes receiving honors were Aisha Gerber (3.73, World Arts and Cultures) and Samantha Peszek (3.60, Undeclared). The NACGC/W Scholastic All-America team acknowledges gymnasts who carry a 3.5 or higher GPA during the school year.
UCLA Signs Two Standouts For 2013 -- UCLA gymnastics head coach Valorie Kondos Field announced the signings of British national team member Danusia Francis and former U.S. National Team member Sophina DeJesus to national letters-of-intent. They will be joined in the freshman class of 2013 by Canadian national team member Peng Peng Lee, who signed last fall but deferred enrollment until after the 2012 Olympics.
Francis competed at the 2011 World Championships for Great Britain, helping her team achieve a best-ever fifth-place finish and a full team qualification for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. At the 2011 British Championships, Francis won the gold medal on the beam for the second straight year and captured the silver medal in the all-around. Also in 2011, she finished 16th in the all-around at the European Championships. In 2010, she won both the beam and floor titles at the British Championships and was third in the all-around.
DeJesus was a 2009 U.S. National Team member and three-time U.S. Championship qualifier. Her top finish at USAs came in 2009, when she placed ninth in the all-around and on bars and fourth on beam. In 2008, she was 14th in the all-around and ninth on beam. DeJesus, who trains at SCEGA, was the Level 10 State champion in the all-around and bars in 2007.
Lee is a Canadian national team member from Oakville, ON who formerly trained at Sport Seneca and is now at Oakville Gymnastics. Lee had a breakthrough year in 2007, placing fifth in the all-around, fourth on floor and eighth on beam at the 2007 Pan American Games. In 2008, she claimed the beam and floor titles at the Canadian national championships. After sitting out two years due to injury, Lee returned to action in December of 2010 and won the all-around at Elite Canada. In 2011, she helped lead Canada to an 11th-place finish at the World Championships and a silver medal at the Pan American Games. She also placed 19th in the all-around at the World Championships and fourth at the Pan Am Games.
Looking Ahead -- UCLA will travel to the Bay Area next week for a Sunday, Jan. 15 dual meet at California.
Heart of a Champion Meet -- UCLA's second annual Heart of a Champion meet will take place on Sunday, Jan. 22 when the Bruins host San Jose State at 2 pm. The Heart of a Champion meet helps raise funds for Camp del Corazon, a non-profit organization that provides a summer camp to youngsters with heart disease. ( Camp del Corazon video)
Season and Single-Meet Tickets on Sale Now -- Tickets for the 2012 season are on sale now. For just $30, fans can purchase a UCLA season ticket which includes seats in the center-most section at all five home meets (Jan. 8 vs. Utah, Jan. 22 vs. San Jose State, Feb. 5 vs. Stanford, Feb. 26 vs. Arizona State and Mar. 11 vs. Oklahoma). Single-meet general admission tickets are also available for sale for $7 adults/$5 youth (16 and under). All home meets in 2012 will take place at the John Wooden Center. Tickets can be purchased online at www.tickets.ucla.edu or by phone at 310-UCLA-WIN.
UCLA to Host 2013 NCAA Championships -- UCLA will host the 2013 NCAA Championships in Pauley Pavilion on Apr. 19-21, 2013. Pauley Pavilion will have a new look by 2013, as it is currently under renovation. It will be reopened for intercollegiate athletic competition in Fall 2012. This will be UCLA's fourth time hosting the NCAA gymnastics championships. The Bruins won the national title the last time they hosted in 2004, scoring an NCAA record 198.125. UCLA also previously hosted in 1998 and 1984.