Sunday, May 31

UCLA gymnastics tests lineup rotation in victory against Arizona State

Sophomore Katelyn Ohashi fell during her balance beam routine, but rebounded with a 9.875 in her first floor exercise this season. (Jintak Han/Assistant photo editor)

In Tempe, Arizona, UCLA gymnastics was far from perfect. The Bruins had a fall during three events, which could have left them in a difficult spot on the scoresheet.

It didn’t.

[Related: UCLA gymnasts seek to maximize strengths after lineup changes]

The team, for the most part, put together high-scoring routines that canceled out their miscues. As a result, No. 5 UCLA (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12) strolled to a 197.150-194.600 victory over Arizona State (0-4, 0-2) on the strength of four eerily consistent scores.

The Bruins initially posted a 49.3 on all four events, though the judges later lowered the balance beam score to 49.25.

“Every event was just so much fun and it wasn’t a perfect meet, so that’s what you want to see,” said coach Valorie Kondos Field.

In a way, the two gymnasts who fell today – freshman Kyla Ross and sophomore Katelyn Ohashi – epitomized UCLA’s day.

On one hand, they both posted several solid scores. Ross was almost perfect on balance beam, nabbing a 9.975 from the judges, and Ohashi more than held her own during her first floor routine of the season by landing a 9.875.

On the other hand, however, they fell. Ross, competing all-around for the first time in her collegiate career, miscued on a handstand during her bars routine and was unable to complete a tumbling pass on floor. Ohashi went for broke on beam and couldn’t stay on.

[Related: Kyla Ross brings gold medal talent to UCLA gymnastics]

“I think my full was a bit too high – I was like, ‘Ah, where’s the beam?’ Ohashi said. “Honestly, I don’t get upset when I fall on a full because it’s also been a while, and I tried. It’s just fun getting to compete it. I’m happy with my performance today.”

Aside from the meet’s ups and downs, the Bruins welcomed senior Angi Cipra back into the competitive fold in front of her hometown crowd.

She stepped up on vault and scored a 9.875 after an injury forced her to miss the first three meets.

“Pure joy,” Cipra said about her emotions. “Run down, landing – pure joy. You really can’t explain it in one word or one feeling. It’s just awesome.”

Kondos Field took the opportunity given by facing a low-scoring Arizona State team to rotate the lineups. Junior Sonya Meraz only competed in one event, while others got looks in her usual spots in the vault, beam and floor.

“It’s nice to give people rest and let other people go out there because then you get to save the best lineup for later in the season,” Ohashi said.

Freshman Madison Kocian, however, competed in all four events for the fourth straight meet. She wound up winning the all-around competition for the third time this season.

After a solid 9.85 on bars and a 9.875 on vault, Kocian turned the dial up a notch during her floor and balance beam routines, scoring a 9.95 on both.

Her all-around score of 39.625 was a new career-high, besting her total from last week.

“I started out a little slow on bars. It wasn’t my best routine,” Kocian said. “But I didn’t let that get to me and just tried to get personal bests on all of the other events, and I still improved my all-around score. This week I will work on improving the landing on bars, and I hope next weekend will be even better.”

All in all, considering Cipra’s return from injury, the lineup rotation and the ups and downs, the meet was successful for UCLA.

With more key members on the verge of returning and others, like Ross, making their debuts in new events, the pieces are falling into place for the second half of the season.

“I think from here, we can only improve, and I think that’s what UCLA gymnastics is known for – starting out slow in the beginning,” Kocian said. “But when the second half of the season comes around, the most important meets, nationals, we can be the best in the country.”

Bribach joined the Bruin as a sophomore in 2016 and contributed until he graduated in 2018. He spent time on the gymnastics, women's basketball, women's soccer and beach volleyball beats.

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