Friday, 22 May 2015 14:08

UCLA Gymnastics Team Wins 2015 Pac-12 Sportsmanship Award

Written by  UCLA Official Press Release

Women Gym 350The Pac-12 Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) has voted to award the UCLA gymnastics team with the Pac-12 Sportsmanship Award for 2014-15, the Conference announced today. The honor recognizes the strength of character and tremendous sportsmanship the Bruins displayed after a competitor was seriously injured during the 2015 Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships.


In the final rotation of the championships, Utah stood in first place with UCLA behind in second. The Bruins were on the vault, while the Utes were right beside them competing on the floor exercise. On her opening tumbling pass, Utah senior Tory Wilson, who had already scored a 10.0 that day, tore her right Achilles and broke her left foot and had to be carried off the floor as her collegiate gymnastics career ended in a way no one could have imagined.


“The whole arena fell silent,” UCLA senior gymnast Samantha Peszek said. “As much as you want to beat another team, when someone has an injury like that, your first instinct is to help out.”


Wilson’s injury caused her to score a 1.0 out of 10.0 on the routine and opened the door for UCLA to make a comeback. But instead of focusing solely on the opportunity to win the championship, the Bruins displayed incredible empathy for the Utah gymnasts and encouraged the Utes throughout the rest of the meet. Peszek and Utah senior Corrie Lothrop, who was to immediately follow Wilson on the floor, had both torn their Achilles earlier in their careers. Peszek knew Lothrop would be rattled by seeing that exact same injury happen to a teammate, so Peszek and her fellow Bruins took it upon themselves to approach the Utah gymnasts before each of their subsequent routines, cheer them on, and offer words of support.


“When any athlete is injured it can be hard to cope with, especially when it is your own teammate,” Utah senior gymnast Georgia Dabritz said. “Often you will receive support from teammates, coaches, and fans, but rarely do you receive support from opposing teams. However, during the Pac-12 Championships, UCLA displayed great sportsmanship towards us.”


As every hit routine by Utah diminished UCLA’s own chances of winning the championship, the Bruins remained steadfast in support of the Utes. They continued to cheer and clap at every Utah routine.


“When Tory got injured our team experienced something I've preached to them a lot: the joy you get from doing something for someone else without expecting anything in return is greater than the joy the other person receives,” UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field said. “The support they felt for Tory and the next Utes up was bigger and more satisfying than whatever scores we would have received for our last three vaulters. It truly was athletics at its finest.”


Utah ended up winning the Pac-12 Championship and went on to take second place overall at the NCAA Championships.


“What UCLA did for our team at the Pac-12 Championships was probably the classiest display of sportsmanship I have ever seen from an opponent during a competition,” Utah head coach Megan Marsden said. “An injury like that to a teammate can be devastating. To have members of UCLA’s team come over and encourage our last three gymnasts that they could do it, was something we will never forget and will always appreciate.”


The Sportsmanship Award is selected by members of the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and is based on good sportsmanship and ethical behavior in participation of intercollegiate athletics, as well as a demonstration of good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting. Nominees must have demonstrated the values of respect and integrity through a specific action, ideally directed toward an opponent. The student-athlete must have consistently demonstrated the values of respect and integrity in his or her daily participation in intercollegiate athletics. Conference award winners are then nominated for the NCAA Division I Sportsmanship Award.


Previous Pac-12 Sportsmanship Award winners:

2004 - Grayling Love, Arizona State

2005 - Channing Frye, Arizona; Cara Chlebicki, California

2006 - Eric Nygard, Washington State; Anna Key, California

2007 - Mitch Canham, Oregon State; Jennifer Tangtiphaiboontana, Stanford

2008 - Michael Capbarat, California; Arianna Lambie, Stanford

2009 - Stenn Parton, USC; Lindsey Kelley, Arizona

2010 - Ben Ashmore, Arizona State; Stanford women’s rowing team

2011 - Jeff Gudaitis, Washington; Katie Matusik, Arizona

2012 - Bryson Beirne, Arizona; Brittany Hart, Oregon

2013 - Kylie Sharp, Washington

2014 - University of Colorado Student-Athletes

2015 - UCLA women’s gymnastics team

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