Monday, December 10

UCLA gymnastics bounces back against Cal with season bests


Redshirt junior Sadiqua Bynum returned from an injury Sunday with a career-high score of 9.925 on floor exercise. (Angie Wang/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Redshirt junior Sadiqua Bynum returned from an injury Sunday with a career-high score of 9.925 on floor exercise. (Angie Wang/Daily Bruin senior staff)


Redshirt senior Samantha Peszek, the usual all-around competitor on the UCLA gymnastics team, noticeably competed in only one event – the uneven bars – in Pauley Pavilion. Peszek was rested because the team wanted to pace her season toward the end, making sure her form will be 100 percent at that time. However, the rest of the Bruin gymnasts stepped up and beat the Cal Golden Bears on Sunday morning.

The UCLA gymnastics team was able to recover from last week’s loss to Utah with a home win of 196.800-195.425 against Cal, scoring a season best. The Bruins won two events, the bars and the balance beam.

“It was difficult for everybody to put that (the loss) behind us,” said associate coach Chris Waller. “But given our performance, I think we did really well. We came out and did what we’re capable of doing.”

Several Bruins renewed their personal best scores on various apparatuses. Among them was redshirt sophomore Christine Peng-Peng Lee, who won both bars and beam with a career best of 9.950.

“It’s only my fourth competition in college,” Lee said. “I feel great about getting the scores. It’s what I expected from myself.”

Although Lee’s two-year-long injury period has ended, the team is still taking precautions with her knees. As a result, Lee is not competing on vault or floor, but she said she intends to take part in those two events when her knee is ready.

Lee’s winning routines on bars and beam included two difficult moves named after former Bruins: the Homma Flairs on beam and the Bhardwaj on bars.

“It’s always fun to do these uncommon skills,” Lee said. “I love surprising people. That’s just what I have fun with gymnastics.”

Junior Danusia Francis was also performing a skill named after a former Bruin, Kristen Maloney, on bars. Francis updated her personal best on this apparatus with a score of 9.925.

“My bars isn’t my strongest event,” Francis said. “Even when I do my best, I didn’t expect to get a score like that. So it’s really cool.”

Despite the strong performance on bars and beam, the UCLA gymnasts were not able to continue the win streak into the last rotation of the meet, the floor exercise, which the Bruins are known for. The first two gymnasts to compete on floor, sophomore Jennifer Pinches and freshman Sonya Meraz, both committed minor errors on landing.

“Certainly, you want to start out your event strong. It makes it easier to finish the event strong,” Waller said. “But after we had a mistake, we brought the girls together to fire them up. I think it became like a mission to do a great job despite the mistakes.”

The Bruins were able to recover from the mistakes and bring back a consistency to their routines, with redshirt junior Sadiqua Bynum winning the event and scoring a personal best of 9.925.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt how I felt on floor today. I was confident, ready and excited to compete,” Bynum said.

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