Last week, UCLA gymnastics opened the season at home, where the team had a crowd to pump it up.
But for the Elevate The Stage meet, the gymnasts faced an empty Reno Convention Center.
“The atmosphere was weird,” said coach Valorie Kondos Field. “There weren’t a lot of people in the stands, but we were on a podium. There were a lot of things that were different.”
The No. 4 Bruins (2-0) didn’t need the crowd to find the energy to score a 197.2 and come out on top Sunday over No. 2 Utah (1-1), Stanford (0-2) and Washington (1-1).
“The consistency of our energy was awesome,” said sophomore Gracie Kramer, who notched her second consecutive 9.9 on floor exercise. “It was natural. Usually, we feed off the crowd.”
UCLA started the meet on the balance beam. Small errors littered the routines and the landings included hops, shaving tenths off the scores. The team finished the rotation with a 49.025.
“We had a bunch of checks and balances on beam,” Kondos Field said.
That would be the lowest rotation score of the meet for the Bruins.
They moved onto floor exercise, where Kramer led off with a 9.9. Sophomore Kyla Ross followed up with a 9.9 of her own. A third 9.9 by freshman Pauline Tratz gave the team a 49.4.
UCLA took the meet lead from Utah, which scored highest on the first rotation, and kept it.
Vault, a struggle for the Bruins last season and in the season opener against Ohio State, resulted in another 49.4.
“The vault lineup really stood out to me,” said redshirt senior Peng-Peng Lee. “The team has worked hard to recover from two falls last meet, and they killed it.”
UCLA led by almost three tenths, a strong margin, and closed the meet on its most consistent event in the past year – the uneven bars.
After three previous gymnasts in the rotation scored in the 9.8 range, junior Katelyn Ohashi fell attempting a Tkatchev, earning a 9.175 from the judges. To erase the score, the team couldn’t afford another mistake.
Ross, the defending NCAA uneven bars champion, turned in a near-perfect routine and stuck the landing to receive a meet-high score of 9.95. Lee clinched the meet with her trademarked high-flying exhibition and nabbed a 9.925.
UCLA left the meet on a positive note, but Kondos Field, however, felt the team could have performed at this level last time out.
“Today felt good, but it was what we should have done last weekend,” Kondos Field said. “We’re a 197+ team.”