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UCLA gymnastics finds its stride, putting up season-high score against Stanford

Redshirt senior Nicki Shapiro scored a 9.800 on the balance beam as part of No. 3 UCLA gymnastics’ 49.375 score on the event. It marked the second meet in a row the Bruins have collected a 49.375 on beam, after struggling on it in their first two meets. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)


No. 3 UCLA197.575
No. 26 Stanford196.250

By Cassidy Hunt

Jan. 28, 2020 1:00 a.m.

The Bruins have improved their team score with every meet this season.

No. 3 UCLA gymnastics (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) took first place in all four events en route to a season-high 197.575 against Stanford (0-2, 0-2 Pac-12) on Monday. It was the fourth time in four consecutive weeks that the Bruins have increased their season-high score.

“This will help us maintain that energy at a really high level,” said senior Felicia Hano. “We have been really working on the little details and it’s really showing in competition. I think we’re on that gradual incline, and it’s only going to get better from here.”

UCLA opened the meet with its second-highest uneven bars score of the year – 49.450 – before rotating to vault, floor exercise and balance beam.

But, an unexpected problem arose for the Bruins in their vault rotation.

Coach Chris Waller said confusion ensued in Stanford’s Maples Pavilion when senior Gracie Kramer’s name was announced before her vault routine, while a film crew obstructed the judges’ view. If Kramer had not completed her routine within 30 seconds of her introduction, she would have been at risk of receiving a zero, so she attempted her routine before the judges could see her.

The miscommunication resulted in two Cardinal gymnasts completing consecutive uneven bars routines and Kramer having to redo her vault at the end of the second rotation. She scored a 9.825.

“The confusion on vault, starting with (Kramer), just threw things off,” Waller said. “There’s no doubt that the situation was distracting, but (the Bruins) did a solid job of pulling through. When things go sideways, those are opportunities to see what you can do under those weird circumstances.”

Despite the distraction, senior Kyla Ross and junior Nia Dennis tied for first place on vault with 9.900s and led the Bruins to a 49.275 team score.

Ross wobbled twice in her balance beam routine, earning her a 9.750 – the third-lowest score of her career on the event and her lowest beam score since March 2017. However, the former Olympian placed first in every other category, with a 9.950 on uneven bars, a 9.900 on vault, a 9.975 on floor exercise and a 39.575 all-around.

Ross’s beam score was not counted for UCLA, as it was replaced by a career-high-tying 9.975 from senior Grace Glenn, back-to-back 9.875s from sophomore Norah Flatley and Dennis, a career-high-tying 9.850 from junior Kendal Poston and a 9.800 from redshirt senior Nicki Shapiro, who was competing for the first time since 2016.

Shapiro said she completely stepped away from gymnastics after the 2016 NCAA championship, but decided to return to the team over the summer. After meeting with Waller and re-trying out, she was placed back on the squad and has been training with the Bruins since September.

“I found out that I was in the lineup at about noon on the day of,” Shapiro said. “I took time away from the sport, completely stopped doing it for a couple of years. So, I definitely felt (nervous), but I found strength looking around at the women that I’m on a team with who were 100% supporting me.”

The Bruins’ 49.375 on beam ties their season-high and marks the second time in two weeks that they have posted a score above 49 on the event.

UCLA will meet Washington in Pauley Pavilion on Friday at 7 p.m.

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Cassidy Hunt | Sports staff
Hunt is currently a Sports staff writer on the softball and women's soccer beats. She was previously a reporter on the gymnastics, women's water polo and swim & dive beats.
Hunt is currently a Sports staff writer on the softball and women's soccer beats. She was previously a reporter on the gymnastics, women's water polo and swim & dive beats.
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