UCLA gymnastics sees individual, team successes despite loss to rival Utah
Freshman Jordan Chiles celebrates with her teammates after scoring a perfect 10 on floor. Chiles put up a career-high 39.700 in the second all-around performance of her Bruin career as No. 22 UCLA gymnastics fell to No. 3 Utah on Friday. (Sakshi Joglekar/Assistant Photo editor)
|No. 3 Utah||197.750|
|No. 22 UCLA||197.650|
Feb. 4, 2022 9:23 p.m.
This post was updated Feb. 6 at 11:13 p.m.
In Beijing, Friday marked the opening day of the Winter Olympics.
Across the world, one Bruin brought the Olympics to Pauley Pavilion.
Freshman and Olympic silver medalist Jordan Chiles tallied a career-high 39.700 in the all-around as No. 22 UCLA gymnastics (1-1, 1-1 Pac-12) fell 197.750-197.650 to No. 3 Utah (7-0, 3-0) on Friday night in Pauley Pavilion. Chiles put up scores of 9.900 or better on three events, including a perfect 10 on floor as the Bruins cleared their season-high team score by more than a point.
“(Chiles) just competed at the Olympics six months ago,” said coach Chris Waller. “She comes to UCLA and is competing in Pauley Pavilion and gets a 10 in front of The Den, and she just collapses on the floor, overwhelmed with emotion. There’s nothing greater in sport.”
The freshman stepped up on floor already on pace to beat her all-around performance from the week before – and then she left no doubt.
Chiles stuck her double layout and then her next pass and then her final pass. When the judges flipped their scorecards, both featured one number. It was a perfect 10 for Chiles and the first for the Bruins since Kyla Ross achieved the feat in March 2020.
Before the meet, Chiles said she contemplated tweeting about getting a perfect 10 while wearing a leotard designed by Ross. While she never posted the tweet, the perfect score came anyway.
“Getting that 10 at the end of my floor routine was just very emotional,” Chiles said. “Just being able to show that moment definitely was something special to me.”
UCLA’s team score was also the highest it has reached since that meet against California nearly two years ago, as the Bruins set season-high marks on all four events.
Entering the meet, UCLA hadn’t cleared a score of 49.275 on any event, but that changed when the Bruins made their way to bars Friday.
“There’s always room to grow,” said senior Norah Flatley. “We’re not perfect, and we’re not at our peak yet. But thank God the season is still young and we have more time to build.”
Sophomore Chae Campbell opened the rotation with a season-high 9.850 before sophomore Sara Ulias added a season-high 9.875 after not eclipsing 9.675 on the event in three previous meets this year. Freshman Ana Padurariu followed suit with a season best of her own, but it was UCLA’s final two competitors on the evening who helped shatter the Bruins’ previous best score of the campaign on the event.
Chiles stuck her dismount en route to her second 9.925 of the season, while Flatley followed with a stuck double layout to give her a 9.950 and bring UCLA’s total on the event to 49.450.
“We followed through with our training and what we’ve been doing in the gym,” Flatley said. “Finally showing that out on the competition floor was key today and building one routine after another, … I feel like that was like the ceiling point on our confidence today.”
But Chiles wasn’t done setting season highs quite yet. The freshman tallied a 9.900 on beam as the Bruins reached a season-best 49.325 on their best event entering the night. Padurariu, a world championship silver medalist on the event, posted her third straight 9.900 in the leadoff spot.
The Bruins closed the meet with their signature floor party, tallying a 49.600. Senior Sekai Wright made her season debut with a 9.825 as UCLA fans danced along before the Bruins closed out the meet with three straight scores above 9.900.
Chiles’ perfect 10 was sandwiched in between a pair of 9.925 scores from senior Pauline Tratz and Campbell.
“I can’t tell you how good it felt to see our entire team just flying emotionally and thriving off the audience and being so big and full,” Waller said. “It’s hard to put into words how important I feel this is for the team and every single person on it.”
After reaching a season high on vault Sunday in a win over Arizona, UCLA once again reached a season-best mark on the event to open the meet Friday. Behind Campbell’s season-high-tying 9.900 in the anchor spot, UCLA counted exclusively scores of 9.800 or better – dropping only Tratz’s 9.775 in her return to the lineup.
But the Bruins entered the second rotation with a deficit of nearly three-tenths of a point as the Red Rocks put up a season-high 49.550 on bars, headlined by a perfect 10 courtesy of freshman and Olympian Grace McCallum.
Waller said his team brought extra energy with Utah in the building.
“It just made me smile that it absolutely was on everyone’s mind,” Waller said. “We talked about how important it would be for us to stay in our Bruin bubble and compete for each other and for The Den. But what we also saw tonight was that inner belief that we are that good.”
The blue and gold never caught up, ultimately falling to its conference foe by one-tenth of a point as Utah cleared 197 for the fifth time this season despite posting a 49.050 on beam.
Despite the loss, Chiles said Friday was a defining moment for the Bruins.
“Knowing that we finally did something great and just seeing everybody’s emotions put out onto the competition floor made me feel so amazing,” Chiles said.
UCLA is back on the road Feb. 12 to take on No. 19 Stanford.