Gymnastics signs talented trio

Nov. 19, 2015

DAVIS, Calif. - UC Davis women’s gymnastics earned commitments from three prospective student-athletes to national letters of intent during the fall signing period, head coach John Lavallee announced. Alphabetically, the NLI signing class comprises Taylor Bennion of Murrieta, Alyssa Ito of Hacienda Heights and Sarah Liddle of Modesto.

All three are high school seniors who are expected to enroll at UC Davis in the fall of 2016.

“This class comes in having had very good early success at Level 10. They all have been to either the NIT or the Junior Olympic nationals, and they have been very strong competitors in Region 1. They will bring really solid performances for us in every event,” said Lavallee, now in his 10th year at the Aggie helm.

“Taylor is a very dynamic performer on floor and vault, and she’s very strong on bars as well. We’re looking forward to some big stuff from her. Alyssa has some big skills on a very difficult bar routine, and her floor exercise is very powerful. She’s a powerful tumbler. Sarah is equally strong on the events as the other two. She has a big bar routine coming in. So we’re very excited about where the three of them are at and what they’ve done so far.”

Bennion, who attends Vista Murrieta High School, has competed for the Southern California Elite Gymnastics Academy for 13 years, including Level 10 for the last three. In 2014, she advanced to the Junior Olympics NIT, where she tied for third in the all-around and added top-six finishes on vault, bars and beam. Bennion captured the Level 9 bars title at the SoCal, Region 1 and Westerns prior to moving to Level 10. Bennion continues a tradition of SCEGA gymnasts who have succeeded at UC Davis, most recently Lida Gehlen, Kala DeFrancesco and Jamie Yamashita.

Ito, a senior at Glen A. Wilson High School, moved from Gym-Max to Winners Gymnastics to train at Level 10 in 2013. By her second season at Winners, she advanced to the 2014 JO NIT, where she captured the floor title and added medals on vault (silver) and beam (bronze). Ito previously finished third on vault at both the SoCal and Region 1 meets, while adding a second-place showing on bars at regionals. As a scholar, Ito received an ROP Outstanding Student award from WHS.

Liddle, of Modesto High School, trained at Airborne Gymnastics for seven years, then moved up the peninsula to San Mateo Gymnastics in 2015 for her second season at Level 10. She posted top-five finishes on balance beam and all-around at the 2014 Region 1 championship, earning a berth at the Junior Olympics National Championships. Last spring, Liddle captured second place on vault and fourth on bars at the state championships. Her arrival at UC Davis will make her the fifth recent alumna of SMG in the program, along with current Aggies Yonni Michovska, Rachel Kreager, Miranda Holder and Aya Suzuki.

According to Lavallee, this class will at least replace the prolific foursome of Taylor Baron, Dani Judal, Stephanie Stamates and Jamie Yamashita, all of whom graduate next spring. “Obviously, we’re looking for this class to exceed the class they’re replacing. That’s how you improve and get better,” Lavallee said. “We have some career-high performers in the class that will be graduating, and we’re very hopeful that this group can come in and pick up where that class left off.”

UC Davis begins its defense of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title with the NorCal Classic meet at San Jose State on January 10, 2016. The Aggies also host a free Blue-Gold Intrasquad preview meet in their practice gym on Saturday, December 5 at 1 p.m.