April 21, 2013
Los Angeles, Calif. - Olivia Courtney was the first and last performer of the day at the NCAA Championships event finals in Pauley Pavilion on Sunday and one of four Bruins to earn top-eight finishes in the event finals.
Three of those top-eight finishes were Top 5 on vault, while freshman Danusia Francis was top-eight on beam. Francis also brought the house down when she landed a never-before-competed skill on the event.
As the first vaulter down the runway, Olivia Courtney stuck her Yurchenko layout full and scored 9.9167, which ended up 22 vaults later as third-best. Joining Courtney on the awards podium were teammates Kaelie Baer, who also stuck her Yurchenko layout full to finish fourth with a 9.9083, and Vanessa Zamarripa, who finished in a tie for fifth with a 9.900. Lichelle Wong also competed in the event, finishing 22nd with a score of 9.7833.
On both floor and beam, Bruins were the final competitors of the meet. On beam, Francis landed a sideways aerial, the first time that skill had been performed in a competition. With first place in her sights, Francis went for another big skill but fell on her front aerial walkover, which she was attempting to connect to a flip-flop/layout stepout/back full dismount. She finished with a 9.3250 to finish eighth.
"It's like a cartwheel without hands, but sideways," said Francis of the sideways aerial. "I was working on it a lot before the season, and I warmed it up before today's competition. I talked about doing it last night with my coaches."
Francis learned the sideways aerial while recovering from an injury, which prevented her from putting pressure on her injured wrist.
"She just learned it this summer," said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. "It's never been competed in college. We've been training it, and if she wanted to put it in for beam finals, it was up to her. That was stunning. I knew the crowd would go crazy. With our current code of points, we need to keep encouraging interesting gymnastics. The more pressure there is, the better [Danusia] competes."
Courtney's floor performance completed the competition, but she landed short on her final tumbling pass to score of 9.7750 and an 11th-place finish.
UCLA finished with four podium placements at the event finals, second only to Florida in this year's competition.