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Gymnastics takes second place at Pac-12 Championships behind Zamarripa’s lead

By Michelle Epps

March 24, 2013 11:16 a.m.

Despite posting its highest road score of the year, UCLA gymnastics was unable to defend its Pac-12 Championship title.

And although the Bruins didn’t come away with the win, senior Vanessa Zamarripa shined in her final Pac-12 performance.

UCLA started the meet strong on uneven bars, scoring a season-high 49.45 and taking the first rotation lead. The team had consistent and improved performances from multiple athletes, who had been working on fine-tuning their skills in competition.

Zamarripa’s routine was on point to begin the meet, she stuck a double layout dismount to finish the rotation for the Bruins, earning her team a solid 9.95.

Next up for the Bruins was beam. They had two uncharacteristic performances by senior Kaelie Baer and freshman Sophina De Jesus, who scored a 9.525 and 9.175, respectively. This rotation led to the Bruins losing their lead.

The Bruins didn’t lose focus though, as they performed well in their floor routines.

“We’ve had problems in the past keeping them motivated. When something goes wrong in a meet, we would get embarrassed and shut down. This time, we kept fighting,” said coach Valorie Kondos Field.

Senior Lichelle Wong stepped in on floor at the last minute after sophomore Dana McDonald’s ankle injury flared up. She came through for the Bruins with a 9.85, a season-high for Wong.

“I was ready to step in when my team needed me. I was nervous but mostly excited,” Wong said.

Heading into the fourth and final rotation, the Bruins finished strong on vault.

Led by Zamarripa, UCLA surpassed Utah and clinched second place, placing behind Oregon State.

Zamarripa posted the ninth perfect 10 of her career on vault. She was named the Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year for the second time in her career, a title she previously received in 2010. She also earned titles in the all-around, vault and beam.

“We’ve prepared so well and competed so much that at this point all of the hard work we have done, we deserve to have fun. Thinking about that before calms me and prepares me before I step out on the floor,” Zamarripa said.

The Bruins said their performance at Pac-12 Championships was an improvement from others this season.

“It’s disappointing to lose but in the grand scheme of things we are getting better so we can peak at the right time – which is nationals,” Wong said.

With the NCAA Championships less than a month away, the Bruins said they are going to perfecting their routines and work on minor technical details to prepare.

“We need to work on little things and practice our mental sets. At this point we’ve done the hard work and it’s more mental than anything now,” Zamarripa said.

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Michelle Epps
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