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Alex Irvine earns 1st-year triumph in Tempe after injury-filled route to UCLA

Freshman Alex Irvine raises both of her hands for a high five. Irvine set a career-high on bars, with a 9.900 at Arizona State in Tempe. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

By Aaron Doyle

March 12, 2024 12:38 p.m.

The stars realigned for Alex Irvine.

After falling twice on bars, the freshman was taken out of the lineups for an entire month. Saturday, with sophomore Selena Harris and junior Emma Malabuyo unavailable, Irvine reentered UCLA gymnastics’ bars lineups.

“I’ve been frustrated because I know I can hit and I know can hit it good every time,” Irvine said post-meet.

She bounced back in Tempe, notching a 9.900 on the apparatus – the top score of any Bruin on the event, and won her the first-career event title.

Freshman Katelyn Rosen, who won the vault and all-around title at the meet, said she is proud of her fellow freshman.

“Nobody works as hard as Alex,” Rosen said. “My cheeks were hurting from smiling so hard. I’m just so proud of them (Irvine) .”

When Irvine committed to UCLA in 2022, she became a question mark in her recruiting class, considering her injury history. The freshman had missed out on competition for the final season of her club career due to injury before she became a Bruin.

Coach Janelle McDonald said Irvine’s growth was exciting.

“We realized that (Irvine) said she has been injured over the past eight years of her life, and she’s been completely out of competing for about two and a half years,” her coach said. “For her to be at this point in the season, so locked in, so confident and healthy is something that’s just really great to celebrate.”

Irvine competed for Byers Gymnastics Center in her hometown of Roseville, California. During her club career, she won third place at the 2022 Development Championships on vault with a career-high number, making her presence known on the national podium for the first time.

Irvine doesn’t have all the experience that others in her recruiting class boast. Unlike the wealth of experience the other freshmen in her recruiting class boast, Irvine only managed to qualify for nationals once amid injuries during her club career.

Despite Irvine’s slow start to the season as she adapts to collegiate gymnastics, McDonald said that putting the freshman in lineups allows the team to put its depth to the test.

“Alex has now been out in either a lineup or in an exhibition on all four events for us,” McDonald said. “It took her a little bit longer to lock in some things, but the energy, the effort and the talent was all there.”

Against Arizona State, Irvine made lineup appearances in the vault and beam lineups, scoring no less than 9.825, with the latter being an exhibition.

Had Irvine’s beam routine been a part of the competition lineup, the Bruins would have won the meet against the Sun Devils and would have been able to drop a fall.

Now that Irvine has found her groove in NCAA gymnastics, she has her eyes set on her first postseason quest with the Bruins.

“There’s no messing around, this stuff gets serious,” Irvine said. “We like to bring a lot of fun and energy to our competitions, but especially in practice, if we brought what we were doing in practice to the meets, I think we’d be winning, no problems.”

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Aaron Doyle
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