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UCLA gymnastics lands ticket to nationals with come-from-behind finish, perfect 10s

UCLA gymnasts celebrate. With a second-place finish at the finals of the NCAA Los Angeles Regional on Saturday night, UCLA qualified to the NCAA championships as a team for the first time since 2019. (Julia Zhou/Daily Bruin)

By Isabelle Friedman

April 1, 2023 8:22 p.m.

This post was last updated April 2 at 10:25 p.m.

In the 2022 regional finals, Missouri upset UCLA to end the blue and gold’s season early.

And with the Bruins down 0.200 after two rotations at the 2023 regional finals, it seemed like history might repeat itself.

But after UCLA’s final floor routine, with the crowd roaring and confetti falling to the ground, a perfect 10 flashed across the scoreboard and the Bruins were right back in it.

A season-high 49.700 on floor highlighted by another perfect 10 from sophomore Jordan Chiles  set No. 4 UCLA gymnastics back on track to place second at the NCAA Los Angeles Regional final Saturday. With a final score of 197.925, the blue and gold advanced to the NCAA championships for the first time since 2019. 

After tying for the lead through two rotations, No. 14 Missouri was unable to keep pace, with No. 5 Utah advancing with UCLA to nationals.

“I’ve dreamed of being on the UCLA team and making it to nationals with my teammates,” said junior Chae Campbell. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Following a true floor party in Pauley Pavilion that put UCLA back in the top two, the Bruins moved on to vault with a slim 0.050 advantage over third place. Although the apparatus had been the Bruins’ worst event this season, the blue and gold pulled off a season-high 49.575 on Thursday and needed to channel the same energy Saturday in order to secure a top-two finish.

But coach Janelle McDonald had no doubts about her team’s capabilities on the event.

“I know that’s sort of been the story out there, but for me, I’ve never been worried about vault because I’ve seen kind of our process throughout the season of that event building,” McDonald said.

Two 9.850s from redshirt senior Margzetta Frazier and sophomore Emily Lee to start the rotation left Bruin fans restless in their seats, but they wouldn’t be worried long.

Another perfect 10 graced the scoreboard, this time courtesy of freshman Selena Harris.

Harris came as close to perfect as it gets three times this season but had never reached perfection. But with the season on the line, Harris earned her first-ever 10 on a stuck Yurchenko 1.5. 

“I can’t even process that yet. It hasn’t even set in yet,” Harris said. “I made sure not to celebrate early because I wanted the 10.”

The Bruins finished off the vault rotation with a 49.500 – its second-highest vault score this season behind only Thursday’s showing. The performance on vault sealed the deal on UCLA’s NCAA championships berth, as Missouri couldn’t keep pace with the surging Bruins.

Sophomore Jordan Chiles performs on beam. Chiles notched a perfect 10 on floor to help complete UCLA’s comeback Saturday. (Julia Zhou/Daily Bruin)

But the blue and gold did not start off the meet as strongly.

A sub-average performance on bars in the first rotation put UCLA battling from behind. The Bruins only managed two 9.900-plus routines, including a near-perfect showing from Chiles. The sophomore’s 9.975 marked her seventh of the season on the event and 15th across all events.

UCLA managed to finish with a 49.400 on bars, which Missouri was able to match on its respective event. But behind a perfect 10 from Jaedyn Rucker, Utah’s 49.575 on vault gave the Red Rocks the lead after the first rotation. 

The next event did not fare any better for the Bruins. Despite setting the fourth-best beam score in program history Thursday, UCLA posted five scores in the 9.800s before Harris’ team-leading 9.950. Harris finished the meet with a 39.750 in the all-around to top the individual leaderboard and tie her career best.

Missouri pulled into a tie for first with Utah at the halfway mark, leading UCLA by 0.200.

Glancing back and forth at the scoreboards in the corners of Pauley in between routines, Campbell knew things were tight going into floor. 

But with a perfect 10 under her belt on the event, Campbell said she knew how bright the Bruins could shine on floor in front of a home crowd. 

“What was consistent throughout is that we have fighters,” Campbell said. “And floor – we always have a floor party. We knew that that’s where we can make up some ground.”

And the Bruins did just that.

With the floor party energy carrying through to vault, UCLA finished the meet with a trip to nationals secured. 

Chiles – who competed at the NCAA championships as an individual last year after the Bruins were knocked out at regionals by the Tigers – said the team has yet to reach its potential.

“To tell you the truth, we have not even peaked as a team,” Chiles said. “Individually, some people may have peaked, but as a team we have not. … Fly high and dream big.”

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Isabelle Friedman | Editor in chief
Friedman is the 2023-2024 editor in chief. She was previously the Copy chief and a slot editor and has also contributed to Sports on the women's golf, women's soccer and gymnastics beats. Friedman is a fourth-year public affairs student.
Friedman is the 2023-2024 editor in chief. She was previously the Copy chief and a slot editor and has also contributed to Sports on the women's golf, women's soccer and gymnastics beats. Friedman is a fourth-year public affairs student.
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