March 24, 2012
Salt Lake City, Utah - The first-ever Pac-12 Gymnastics Championship was one for the ages, with top-seeded UCLA coming from behind on balance beam in the final rotation to win its 17th conference title. The Bruins recorded 197.425 to outscore second-place and host team Utah, 197.375. Oregon State was third with 197.025, and Stanford placed fourth with 196.825.
Stanford held the lead for each of the first three rotations before falling out of contention during the fourth and final rotation. The Bruins kept close throughout the meet and showed tremendous grace under pressure in the final rotation, scoring 49.375 on beam to overtake Stanford and hold off a surging Utah, who scored 49.525 on floor. Senior Aisha Gerber led off with a season-high-tying 9.9 to get the Bruins going on the right course, but a pair of falls from Olivia Courtney put pressure on the rest of the team to hit. And hit they did. After Mattie Larson's 9.7, Vanessa Zamarripa hit for a season-high 9.95. Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs earned a pair of perfect 10s and finished with a final score of 9.975. And Samantha Peszek rebounded from a scary fall on bars to score 9.85 and clinch the victory for UCLA.
The competition was fierce among each of the top four seeds competing in the second session. In the first rotation, each team scored 49.2 or higher, with Stanford taking the lead after a 49.5 on beam. UCLA and Utah tied with scores of 49.3 on floor and vault, respectively, and Oregon State was fourth with 49.2. The Bruins were led by Peszek's 9.9 and counted score of 9.825 or better from Tauny Frattone (9.825), Zamarripa (9.85), Olivia Courtney (9.875) and Alyssa Pritchett (9.85).
The Bruins moved to vault for the second rotation and blasted a meet-high 49.55. Kaelie Baer led off with a 9.825, followed by a stuck vault from Hopfner-Hibbs that scored 9.9. Peszek added a 9.85, and Courtney powered a big vault with a stuck landing for a 9.95. Frattone contributed 9.9, and Zamarripa closed with a 9.95 to tie for first with Courtney. Despite the Bruins' high score on vault, however, Stanford remained in first place after scoring 49.425 on floor, and Utah surged ahead of the Bruins with a 49.6 on uneven bars.
After two rotations, the Bruins stood in third place with 98.85, trailing Stanford (98.925) and Utah (98.9) and leading Oregon State (98.475). UCLA was solid but not spectacular on bars, scoring 49.2 for a three-event total of 148.050. Gerber's 9.875 led the way, and Monique De La Torre and Larson each contributed 9.85s, while Zamarripa scored 9.825. Stanford, meanwhile, built up its lead with a 49.45 on vault and a three-event total of 148.375. Utah had to count a fall on beam but still scored 48.95 and remained just two-tenths behind the second-place Bruins with a 147.850. Oregon State was just .025 behind the Utes with 147.825.
UCLA's clutch beam rotation pushed the Bruins into first. Utah made a run at it by scoring big on floor with 49.525, but the Bruins had just enough to hold off the Utes. Oregon State also finished strong with 49.2 on vault to post its second-highest team score of the year. Although Stanford faltered on bars, scoring 48.45, the Cardinal posted its highest team score of the year with 196.825.
"We were really excited to come out here for the inaugural Pac-12 Championship meet because we knew Utah would do it big and they would do it just like a national championship, and that's exactly what it felt like," said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. "It was an exciting competition. It was hard, I always want to keep myself in my little Bruin bubble, and it was really hard to do that, not just because of the fans, but because of the teams. Every team was doing great, and that's how you want athletics to go."
Courtney defended her conference vault title, tying with Zamarripa and Stanford's Ivana Hong for first with a 9.95. Hopfner-Hibbs won the beam title with a 9.975. Kondos Field was voted the Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the fourth time in her career and first since 2003.
UCLA will next compete Apr. 7 at the NCAA Regionals. The NCAA selection show to announce the regional pairings will be on Monday, Mar. 26 at Noon PT on NCAA.com.