DULUTH, Ga. “”mdash; The UCLA gymnastics team, standing in the corral next to vault, burst out in cheers when redshirt junior Vanessa Zamarripa’s feet hit the ground. Zamarripa broke into a big smile as she ran to hug her coaches and teammates.
Half a minute later, the four vault judges raised their placards, showing three 10s and a 9.950. Knowing that the highest and lowest scores from the judges are dropped before averaging, the Bruin fans began celebrating even before Zamarripa’s final score was shown.
Zamarripa’s perfect 10, the sixth of her career on vault, propelled UCLA to a 49.525 in the event at the team finals Saturday.
“I just thought it was great,” said coach Valorie Kondos Field. “We were committed to having a great time and leaving it all on the floor and having no regrets, and that’s what we did.”
After falling on beam in Friday’s semifinals, the redshirt junior bounced back strong Saturday, scoring a 9.950 on both beam and bars and setting a career-high in the all-around with a 39.775.
“(Friday) when I fell on beam, I was really mad at myself because I felt like I was solid and should not be missing skills like that,” Zamarripa said.
“I felt like I finally found my rhythm (Saturday). I have had up and downs this season, and haven’t really been consistent with the all-around or scored as high as I could have. I finally peaked.”
Zamarripa’s all-around score of 39.775 at the team finals was higher than this year’s all-around champion, Florida’s Kytra Hunter. The all-around champion is determined during the semifinals rather than the Super Six competition.
Although she regrets not being able to put together a consistent performance in the all-around Friday, Zamarripa is satisfied knowing she delivered when her team needed her most.
“I would rather have it (be on Saturday) because it’s the team championships and I’m glad to contribute,” she said.
Zamarripa, along with four other Bruins, competed in the individual event finals Sunday.
Despite earning a perfect score at the team finals, Zamarripa’s 9.900 on vault at Friday’s semifinals was not enough to earn her a spot in the individual event finals. She placed fifth on bars with a 9.850 and tied for sixth on floor with a 9.900.
Ending on a high
After stepping out of bounds during her floor routine Saturday, senior Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs ended her collegiate career with an outstanding performance Sunday at the individual event finals. Hopfner-Hibbs hit all her tumbling passes to earn a 9.9375, tying for second place overall.
“I just told myself to go out there and have fun,” Hopfner-Hibbs said as tears filled her eyes. “To do it for my team and enjoy every minute of it. That’s basically it.”
“This team is the best of the four teams I have been in here. This team loves each other so much and we would do anything for each other. It’s something that you can’t get anywhere else. … You are never going to feel like this again.”
A four-year starter, the senior has been a steady presence in UCLA’s lineup, excelling on floor and beam. However, Hopfner-Hibbs will continue to be a familiar sight in the gym next year as an undergraduate assistant for the team.
“I’m looking forward to being on the other side,” she said. “It’s going to be completely different and it’s going to be hard but it’s another chapter.”
Individual finals results
Defending NCAA beam champion Sam Peszek was not able to keep her title, giving it up to Alabama’s Geralen Stack Eaton, who scored a 9.9375 to take the crown. Peszek tied for seventh on beam while Hopfner-Hibbs tied for 11th.
Senior Aisha Gerber finished off her collegiate career on the uneven bars, scoring a 9.825 in the individual event finals. Gerber competed in one of the Bruins’ strongest bars routines this season, often appearing in the all-important final spot of the rotation.
Sophomore Olivia Courtney had UCLA’s highest finish on bars at the individual event finals Sunday, placing third with a 9.8875.