Dec. 21, 2011
WALNUT CREEK, Calif. - The California women's gymnastics team was picked to finish seventh in the inaugural Pac-12 Preseason poll, the conference announced on Wednesday. The Bears tied for seventh place with Arizona State with 11 votes in the poll conducted by the league's eight head coaches.
UCLA was picked as the preseason favorite to capture the regular-season title.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Danna Durante, Cal returns all but one gymnast from a 2011 season that saw the Golden Bears place sixth in the league. The Bears had three individuals advance to the NCAA Regionals with all three of them returning in 2012.
"I have felt all along that we have to prove ourselves this season," said Durante. "Fans and colleagues alike have high hopes for us, but it is a process and it will take time. Our team is working hard to prove that Cal can be a top program - we are excited to begin the 2012 season in just a few weeks. The Pac-12 is comprised of the elite programs in collegiate gymnastics and we are proud to represent the top league in the nation."
Seniors Alexandra Leggitt and Erica Varon highlight an experienced group. Leggitt competed on the vault and balance beam, while also seeing limited time in the floor exercise last winter. Varon was a balance beam specialist for the Bears in 2011.
The Bears return their three all-around competitors in sophomore Alicia Asturias and juniors Madisyn O'Brien and Mariesah Pierce, and have experienced veterans in each routine with the return of Chelsea Spomer (vault/floor exercise), Dallas Crawford (vault, bars, floor exercise), Nicolette Lew (vault, bars, balance beam), Lina Nilsson (floor exercise) and Stina Olivere (bars).
The highly-competitive Pac-12 Conference features four teams in the top-10 of the preseason National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches poll, including No. 1 UCLA, No. 5 Utah, No. 7 Oregon State and No. 8 Stanford.
Cal opens its 2012 season on Friday, Jan. 6, 2012 at Sacramento State at 7 p.m.
2012 PAC-12 WOMEN'S GYMNASTICS COACHES POLL 1. UCLA (6) 48 2. Utah (2) 43 3. Oregon State 38 4. Stanford 30 5. Washington 24 6. Arizona 19 7. Arizona State 11 California 11