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UCLA gymnastics displays depth in penultimate Pac-12 road meet win at Stanford

Junior Emily Lee salutes the judges after competing on vault at Pauley Pavilion. Lee scored three 9.85-or-higher scores, one of two Bruins to achieve the feat Friday. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

By Isabelle Friedman

March 1, 2024 8:42 p.m.

This post was updated March 3 at 10:54 p.m.

STANFORD — The Bruins journeyed to the Bay Area hoping to improve their national qualifying score with a solid road performance.

No. 10 UCLA gymnastics walked away from Maples Pavilion with that and a test of its depth Friday evening after outscoring No. 24 Stanford 197.175-196.725. Multiple Bruins made competitive and season floor debuts, including graduate student Chloe Lashbrooke stepping into the lineup and freshman Alex Irvine’s first collegiate floor routine.

“I always try to take the lens away from every competition,” said coach Janelle McDonald. “We have so many people that just stepped into new roles today and shifted their jobs and their roles for our team”
The Bruins scored 49.400 on their first and final rotations of the evening.

UCLA began its road trip besting its season average on bars, led by a pair of 9.900s from sophomore Selena Harris and senior Frida Esparza. However, junior Emma Malabuyo fell on the event in her first routine since rejoining the Bruins after her whirlwind World Cup travels last week.

The Olympic hopeful then bounced back as the anchor on beam with a 9.925 to close the meet on a high.

Junior Emma Malabuyo competes on beam. The junior Bruin returned to Westwood before UCLA headed to Stanford after competing in Egypt and Germany in World Cups as she vies to qualify for the Olympics. (Daily Bruin file photo)

“I just brushed it off, and I focused,” Malabuyo said. “I’ve been training in the gym and it’s been actually going so well. And in the international competitions, I’ve been hitting my beam routine, so I’m actually like, ‘OK, this is actually an easier beam routine, so just do it for your family and do it for the team.’”

Junior Emily Lee was the only other Bruin to score at or above 9.900 on the apparatus. The Northern California local was met with family and friends for her Bay Area return.

She said the meet was especially meaningful because the last time she competed at Stanford, she was recovering from her torn Achilles.

“I came here all the time when I was a little kid,” Lee said. “It’s such a full-circle moment because I have a picture as a little kid where I’m holding up an autograph thing from all the gymnasts, and now I’m signing autographs for other girls here.”

But it wasn’t all roses amid the homecoming for many Bruins.

UCLA’s hot start tailed off in the second rotation, recording a season-low 49.100 on vault. Three Bruins scored below 9.800, including Harris, who claimed two consecutive perfect 10s on the event earlier this season.

Eight-time All-American senior Chae Campbell bounced back, however, with a stuck-9.900 Yurchenko full following her uncharacteristic 9.750 at Sunday’s home meet.

Campbell also notched a pair of 9.875s on bars and beam, two of her historically weaker events.

“I think she’s really proud of the hard work she’s put in to get dialed in with all of the details and confident like that,” McDonald said. “For her to come out week after week and start showing that, it’s amazing to see.”

After Campbell’s now five-week hiatus on floor, McDonald added that she expects to see her return to the all-around later in the season.

The No. 5 floor team in the nation leading up to Friday, UCLA dropped below its season average on the event and almost reached another low.

The Bruins matched their second-lowest score of the season with a 49.275. Only graduate student Nya Reed scored above 9.900.

Freshman Katelyn Rosen, who has competed in the all-around in five meets this season, was taken out of UCLA’s floor lineup. Lashbrooke stepped up in her place with a 9.825 to match the Bruins’ third-highest score on the event.

“We really needed them (Lashbrooke and Irvine), and they stepped up, and they didn’t even hesitate,” Lee said. “They put up scores that we needed, and it was just great. I’m so proud of them.”

With one road meet left in the regular season, McDonald said she appreciated how the team responded to adversity Friday.

“What I’m taking away is that we have a lot of depth that is ready to step in and help us where we need to,” McDonald said.

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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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