Wednesday, December 19

Gymnastics ends regular season with close meet against No. 1 Oklahoma

Senior Danusia Francis said that the UCLA seniors wanted to go out and have fun and perform for the home crowd one last time collegiately. (Mackenzie Possee/Daily Bruin)

Senior Danusia Francis said that the UCLA seniors wanted to go out and have fun and perform for the home crowd one last time collegiately. (Mackenzie Possee/Daily Bruin)

The score was deadlocked 49.05 apiece and one gymnast remained for each team on the first rotation.

Top-ranked Oklahoma (20-1) put up a meet-winning 9.95 on bars to give themselves a .225 lead and No. 8 UCLA (6-5, 5-2 Pac-12) could not close the gap, falling to the Sooners 197.950-197.200 Sunday afternoon.

After two events, the Bruins looked to cut into the lead on their two strongest events – beam and floor.

Early stumbles on the balance beam put them in a bigger hole, but the fight and perseverance from the team impressed coach Valorie Kondos Field.

Mikaela Gerber broke a tumbling connection during her routine but fought to stay on the beam. The junior re-centered herself and nailed her remaining skills and stuck her landing to score a 9.8 for UCLA.

“We didn’t compete as well as I would’ve liked to today,” Kondos Field said. “But Mikaela coming back to finish strong and Sonya coming back up was more important to us than them performing great routines.”

Sonya Meraz stepped up after Gerber, but was also unable to hit a clean routine.

Illicit camera flashes from the audience distracted the sophomore as she tried to find the beam after her first tumbling series.

The Santa Monica native could not straighten her landing out in time as her leg hit the beam and she spilled on to the mats.

As coaches and athletic trainers rushed to examine Meraz, Nicki Shapiro, the next gymnast in the lineup, tuned out the audience and readied herself for the balance beam.

After an early balance check, the freshman hit the remainder of routine to give the Bruins another 9.8 and set her teammates up for three more big scores, including a team-high 9.9 from freshman Katelyn Ohashi.

“I got up there and I wanted it,” Shapiro said. “I wanted to bring it back for us and get the momentum going again.”

Cleared by the trainers, Meraz came back to beam to try again. But the sophomore could not grip the beam cleanly and slipped off for the second time that afternoon. Determined to see her routine through, she got onto the beam for the third time and pushed through to complete it, scoring a 9.075.

Heading into the last rotation, UCLA trailed Oklahoma by .725 – its largest deficit of the season.

In front of a pulsating crowd, senior Sophina DeJesus performed her viral hip-hop routine and rounded out her career in Pauley Pavilion with a 9.775. Fellow seniors Danusia Francis and Sadiqua Bynum each scored 9.95 to end their last home meet tied for first on floor as 7000 fans gave them standing ovations.

“The support and love from the crowd was overwhelming,” Francis said. “Our last time here, we wanted to go out and just have fun and perform for them.”

The Bruins totaled 49.525 on floor, but the Sooners, who have not lost since dropping their opening meet in early January, clinched the meet with four near-flawless beam performances that each scored over a 9.90.

UCLA enters the postseason and flies to Seattle to compete in the Pac-12 championships as the No. 2 seed next weekend.

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