For the first two rotations in their meet against Utah on Sunday, UCLA’s gymnasts were on fire.
Six gymnasts vaulted near-perfectly to start things off, and six worked the uneven bars effortlessly, backed by an enthusiastic crowd.
Then the Bruins faced the great equalizer of gymnastics ““ the balance beam ““ and that fire sizzled, leaving the Bruins to power through their last rotation to solidify their 196.075-196.025 win against the Utes.
Preseason No. 1 UCLA (1-0) looks to control that initial flame and perform passionate but consistent routines in their upcoming meet against Cal (1-0) this Sunday.
Statistically speaking, a Bruin victory in the upcoming meet seems easily attainable. Cal scored 5.7 points lower than UCLA during their season opener against Sacramento State, posting a 190.375 team total in comparison to UCLA’s 196.075 against Utah.
In the all-around, sophomore Samantha Peszek scored a meet-best 39.450 against Utah. Cal’s best all-around gymnast of the meet, Madisyn O’Brien, scored a 38.625.
Even with statistics favoring the Bruins, coach Valorie Kondos Field says that the Bruins continue to work hard in preparation for the meet against the Golden Bears. She chalked the Bruins’ lower scores up to preseason nerves.
“They put so much into the first two events … they kind of freaked out. It was just a lot of energy expended quickly and we ran out of gas,” Kondos Field said. “It’s no excuse,” she added.
“We want to be ranked in the top three all season; we should be a 197 team on a bad day.”
She emphasized that the Bruins are a solid team on all four events, rather than just on vault and uneven bars.
“(We can score) 9.8s and above on balance beam and floor easily,” Kondos Field said. “We don’t have a weak event. Whatever we do on vault and bars, we should do everywhere else.”
Freshman Mattie Larson and Peszek are two Bruins who proved that statement true.
Larson made her collegiate debut at the meet against Utah and placed fourth in the all-around with a 39.050. The competition between Cal will be the first away meet of her collegiate career.
“I’m really excited to get away from campus as a team and see how everyone acts and how it goes,” she said. “I heard away meets are so fun and I’m really just excited to bond with these girls outside the gym.”
Peszek stressed that the Bruins will focus more on consistency and teamwork when facing Cal and other teams this year.
“We’re doing a lot more circuits in the gym (this year). It’s a big team building thing we’ve been working on,” she said.
“I think this team cheers for each other and lifts someone up if they’re having a bad day, and keeps the consistency level up in the gym. I think that’s going to help us in the long run a lot.”