Wednesday, April 24

Gymnasts land confident win

Vanessa Zamarripa's strong beam performance helped UCLA beat Arizona State.

Vanessa Zamarripa's strong beam performance helped UCLA beat Arizona State. Christine Haroutounian

Vanessa Zamarripa saluted to the judges, stepped onto the vault runway and took a deep breath. The Pauley Pavilion crowd and her teammates cheered louder as she began her sprint down the vault. The sophomore’s feet hit the mat cleanly as she successfully debuted her new elite-level vault during the first rotation of UCLA’s meet against Arizona State (1-5, 1-2 Pac-10).

“I felt good about it, especially since it’s a really strong vault,” Zamarripa said. “I am excited because it flies just like my other vaults.”

The No. 7 Bruins (5-1, 3-1 Pac-10) bounced back from last week’s loss to No. 5 Stanford with their strongest performance since the Utah meet on Jan. 9, defeating the Sun Devils 196.550-193.475. Despite two falls on beam, the Bruins won every event and set season-high records in vault, bars and floor exercise.

“They are gaining more and more confidence,” coach Valorie Kondos Field said. “They can now perform anytime and anywhere, regardless of how they are feeling. It was nice to score that high counting a fall on beam.”

After setting a season-high score of 48.700 on beam last week, the Bruins struggled on the apparatus this time. UCLA was forced to count a fall after two consecutive tumbles by junior Marci Bernholtz and sophomore Aisha Gerber, but strong performances by sophomores Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs and Zamarripa helped boost the team total to 48.375.

The falls on beam ruined UCLA’s chance of nailing 24 of 24 routines, but Kondos Field believes that the mistakes did not detract from the team’s overall performance.

“I do not think that they did anything wrong,” she said. “It’s not like they held back or they were wobbly. It’s really just the nature of that event.”

UCLA came back strong in its final event, floor exercise, with three scores of 9.90 or higher. Senior Anna Li’s 9.950 was the top individual score in the meet, and freshman Lichelle Wong set a new career record on floor with a 9.900, her second in the meet. Li won the individual all-around with a 39.450 and also had the highest individual score on uneven bars with a 9.925.

“The way we brought it back on floor after our weak beam rotation just shows how strong we are as a team and how we can bounce back from any mistakes,” junior Mizuki Sato said.

Freshman Monique De La Torre was scheduled to compete in the all-around but withdrew after a hard landing on bars during warm-ups. De La Torre complained of a headache soon afterward, and it is uncertain whether she sustained a concussion. As a result, Kondos Field said she was forced to shift the lineup.

Zamarripa’s new vault remained the standout routine through the competition, and both Zamarripa and Kondos Field had been discussing its debut for a while.

“She did great,” Kondos Field said. “It was exciting to get that vault out there and finally start competing it because it’s beautiful.”

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