Aggies gymnasts like a little friendly competition

By From page B1 | February 28, 2013

UCD senior Michelle Ho performs a floor routine at meet earlier this season. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

UCD senior Michelle Ho performs a floor routine at meet earlier this season. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

UC Davis fans might be surprised by one of the reasons the Aggie women’s gymnastics squad has been successful so far this season.

In 2013, the local gymnasts have gotten a lot of their motivation from intra-squad competition.

According to seniors Michelle Ho and Katie Yamamura, fighting for their spot in the lineup has been helping them throughout their UCD careers. Even now, there are no free passes for these veteran leaders.

“We have a lot of girls who are really good,” Yamamura said. “We’re in the position where we have to fight to get into the lineup, and that’s part of why our team is so strong.”

Despite the power struggle that plays out among the local women, both Aggies said team chemistry remains intact.

In fact, the cohesive mind-set has been essential in this season’s biggest achievement — collectively breaking the 194-point barrier in three straight meets.

UCD, which ranks 42nd nationally with its scoring average of 193.720, prioritizes team-bonding exercises to strengthen that togetherness. This will remain important as the locals shoot for the No. 36 position, the qualifying cutoff for NCAA Regionals.

Ho explained that part of maintaining a drama-free environment is not alienating incoming Aggies:

“This year, our team is very close. There isn’t much divide between the upper-classmen and lower-classmen. We’ve bonded quite a bit, and I think that helps the chemistry of the team.”

Though the pressure’s on them to act as mature role models for freshman additions, it’s not necessarily more stressful for the senior duo to compete — even if it is their last year at UCD.

“I feel like I’ve accomplished so much the past three years, so I’m going out there and having fun every day,” Yamamura said. “I’m in the moment, and not thinking about (the past nor future). I just do what I can to help the team.”

Yamamura has already helped the team a lot in 2013, recently earning her 11th career Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Gymnast of the Week honor. This came after registering a 38.925 all-around score at Seattle Pacific earlier this month.

The Aggies, however, followed a triumph in Seattle with a 194.725-192.825 defeat at the hands of rival Sacramento State. Friday’s dual meet at the Nest was the Hornets’ third consecutive win in the Causeway Cup.

“(Friday) was a tough meet for us; we certainly didn’t perform to the level we have been at,” said head coach John Lavallee. “It certainly caused us to double our efforts and do all that we can to finish strong.”

UCD ends a three-week road stretch this Friday with a home meet against San Jose State at The Pavilion. It should be a close matchup as the Spartans are ranked at No. 43 nationally — one spot behind the Aggies.

The two evenly matched squads will turn right around and meet again on March 8, this time in San Jose and with Seattle Pacific and Boise State joining the fun.

“These are going to be good meets for us to come in and be competitive with them,” Lavallee said. “The last few years (San Jose State has) had some very strong teams. Surpassing them in the rankings is a great sign of where this program is going.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052.

Brett Johnson

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