Just before tumbling away in her floor routine, senior gymnast Vanessa Zamarripa threw back her head and gave the judges a giddy, goofy stare as she relished her final regular season meet as a Bruin.
But Zamarripa had already gotten the attention of everyone in Pauley Pavilion earlier in the night, earning her eighth career perfect 10 after sticking the landing on a high-flying vault. She ended the meet, a win over Arkansas, in first place in the all-around competition.
“Vanessa, on a bad day, goes 9.85,” said coach Valorie Kondos Field. “As I told her, ‘We can’t have you going normal Vanessa, we need outstanding Vanessa.’”
On vault, Zamarripa was as outstanding as a gymnast can be Sunday, helping No. 8 UCLA (10-4) earn its first win in five weeks after besting No. 15 Arkansas by a decisive margin – nearly nine-tenths of a point.
“This is the first meet all season we’ve put together four great events – four quarters,” Kondos Field said. “The entire season we’ve had two great events and then we faltered the last two.”
Senior Day on Sunday included more successes than just Zamarripa’s – Kaelie Baer tied her career-high on vault for the third time in three weeks and Alyssa Pritchett put up career-highs on both vault and floor.
“In practice, we’ve really been working on being more of a team, being there for each other and being genuinely excited,” Pritchett said. “Today, I really felt that.”
The night wasn’t without its low points, however. Sophomore Dana McDonald had a fall on floor and the team’s performance on balance beam was plagued with small mistakes. With the Pac-12 Championship fast approaching, the gymnasts said there are flaws to fix.
“I got a 9.8 on beam and I’m more than capable of scoring much higher,” Zamarripa said. “The other girls kind of had little wobbles here and I feel like if we fix those we can score much higher.”
With finals making full-team practice difficult, Kondos Field has been working more with indivduals, focusing on each gymnast’s goals.
“Whatever gymnastics they do, they will be doing in smaller quantities with more focus,” she said. “They don’t need to take one turn in the gym that’s not purposeful.”