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Riding on season-high scores, UCLA gymnastics still strives for greater goals

Junior Chae Campbell poses on floor. Campbell and No. 5 UCLA gymnastics reached the 198 mark for the first time this season Sunday. (Vivian Xu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Helene Barnfield

March 7, 2023 1:46 p.m.

This post was updated March 7 at 11:09 p.m.

With just one meet to go before postseason begins, the Bruins are finding their stride, according to Jordan Chiles.

“It’s only up from here. We’re peaking at the right time,” the sophomore said.

That was apparent in Pauley Pavilion on Sunday afternoon after No. 5 UCLA gymnastics put up its highest team score of the season with a 198.175.

“The score is just a reflection of the work that the team’s been putting in and the confidence that they’ve built,” said coach Janelle McDonald.

The score holds more weight than normal, marking the first time this season the Bruins have surpassed the 198 threshold.

Junior Chae Campbell echoed Chiles, adding that the score was the physical representation of all the hard work in the gym finally paying off. According to her, the Bruins have strived to be consistent throughout the season and remain locked in at each meet.

“Getting a 198 was something that’s really special because we all were searching for it,” Campbell said. “We really wanted it.”

McDonald, on the other hand, said she has been less focused on scores. For her, cultivating an environment and team culture that ensures her gymnasts are able to reach their potential and enjoy the sport proves critical.

“My goal is every single day just to come out here and make sure our team feels relaxed, excited, loving what they’re doing and just pushing them to be the best that they can be,” McDonald said.

That approach helped lead the Bruins to a 49.725 on bars in the meet, the second-highest score on the event in the country and third-highest in program history.

The rotation was headlined by Chiles, whose second perfect 10 of the season ultimately contributed to a career-high 39.875 in the all-around. The mark leaves her tied with Oregon State’s Jade Carey for the top all-around score in the country this year.

Chiles said she was thrilled to earn that achievement given the hard work she has put in the gym each week, but she tries not to focus on scores or personal rankings.

“A tie is a tie. You have two Olympians going at something that they love, and having that NCAA title towards the end of the season is definitely going to be fun to watch because we’re going to be fighting for that,” Chiles said.

Ultimately, the team NCAA title is the end goal for Chiles, who said her main priority has been ensuring that the Bruins build off the legacy of those who came before them. This legacy building was something highlighted during Sunday’s meet, as UCLA had the opportunity to celebrate while surrounded by alumni of the program.

Campbell said support from the alumni is something the team will never forget or take for granted, especially since many former Bruins have been role models.

“We’re so blessed to be a part of something bigger than ourselves,” Campbell said. “I don’t think there’s a bigger legacy than UCLA gymnastics, … so it’s cool to be a part of that.”

With their first 198 of the season under their belt, the Bruins still believe they have more room to grow.

Chiles emphasized that by saying that while the team’s 49.725 on bars was impressive, at the end of the day it was just a benchmark, not the end goal.

“It’s going to be a goal to be better,” Chiles said.

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Helene Barnfield
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