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Royer Gets Real: UCLA gymnast Selena Harris is destined for greatness, defies pressure

Sophomore Selena Harris screams after recording her third perfect 10 of her career on vault against Utah at Pauley Pavilion. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

By Benjamin Royer

Feb. 21, 2024 1:13 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 21 at 9:33 p.m.

Selena Harris doesn’t feel pressure.

Need a perfect 10 to clinch a trip to nationals?

Boom – she’ll stick it.

Need a perfect 10 to salvage a lineup at Oregon State?

Why not.

Need a perfect 10 in a rivalry meet against Utah?

Sticky feet.

Pressure – an athlete’s kryptonite when their team needs a vital performance the most – doesn’t affect the UCLA gymnastics sophomore as she sprints down the vault runway, reaches a perfect handstand on bars, executes a back handspring on beam or does her final pass on floor in front of the Pauley Pavilion faithful. Add in that continued perfection, and Harris has already positioned herself as a Bruin legend.

Harris’ elite mix of composure and skill is an observation that all in attendance can track as the budding star stuns during a meet. She’s become the backbone of the Bruins.

But the pressure, oh, the pressure – when the heart starts racing, the crowd gets louder and focus becomes harder to attain – Harris doesn’t feel it.

She said so – even before her debut.

Harris had yet to step foot in Pauley Pavilion for a meet or don the blue-and-gold leotard competitively. But she already set forth expectations for herself when she told the media that pressure did not impact her gymnastics. If anything, she thrives from it.

Where other gymnasts feel pressure, Harris soars. But the best, even someone like the Bruins’ consistent all-around champion, is always trying to improve.

“What’s special about coaching an athlete like Selena is that she wants to be at her best all the time,” coach Janelle McDonald said Monday night. “She’s coming into the gym, and she’s like, ‘Okay, where’s my half-10th deduction?’ Because she’s seeing 9.95s on a lot of events, and so, ‘Where’s my half-10th reduction? What do I need to do?”’

Harris and 9.95s have become a match made in heaven. Competing in every single meet last year, the Las Vegas local scored 13 9.95-plus routines.

But in 2024, with the pressure on and Olympian Jordan Chiles away from the program, Harris is set to reach beyond that personal record, with four regular-season meets and the postseason to go. She’s already at 11 routines hitting the same mark, with two perfect 10s on vault to her name.

Harris performs choreography during her floor routine at Pauley Pavilion. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)
Harris performs choreography during her floor routine at Pauley Pavilion. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

And if Bruin fans have anything to say about it, perfection on bars, beam and floor is next up to the plate.

So, when is it time to start naming Harris among the greats – less than two years into her bound-to-be-historic career in Westwood?

How about now?

Harris is already one of five Bruins since 2009 to notch three 9.95-plus scores in a single meet, already accomplishing the feat three times in February alone. Only one former Bruin – Chiles – also did so during one month within the same 15-year span.

Among the company of Kyla Ross, Norah Flatley, Vanessa Zamarrippa and Chiles, Harris will continue to rack up accolades as a Bruin and can reach beyond the alumni that came before her, even before her time in Westwood comes to a close.

It isn’t a question of if, but when Harris will have more All-American honors, conference awards, personal achievements – and maybe, one day, a national championship to her name.

The pressure – oh, the pressure – won’t halt Harris. It’ll only push her to want more.

“I love competing. It’s my favorite thing ever,” Harris said in December 2022, a month before her NCAA debut. “I just feel like my brain just shuts off, and I just enjoy every second I’m out there.”

The 2028 LA Olympics or an induction into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame could be in the cards.

There are many more years of perfection from Harris to find out.

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Benjamin Royer | Assistant Sports editor
Royer is the 2023-2024 Assistant Sports editor on the baseball, gymnastics and men's water polo beats and a reporter on the football beat. He was previously a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats. He is also a fourth-year communication student.
Royer is the 2023-2024 Assistant Sports editor on the baseball, gymnastics and men's water polo beats and a reporter on the football beat. He was previously a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats. He is also a fourth-year communication student.
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