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UCLA gymnastics aims for national championships ahead of NCAA California Regional

Chae Campbell raises her arm during her floor routine at Pauley Pavilion. The senior gymnast competed floor in back-to-back meets heading into the NCAA California Regional. (Eden Yu/Daily Bruin staff)

By Aaron Doyle

April 4, 2024 9:54 a.m.

Correction: The original version of this article misspelled Fort Worth.

This post was updated April 4 at 10:18 p.m.

The Bruins just barely missed out on a ticket to nationals two years ago.

They redeemed themselves last year when they reclaimed a spot at nationals in their home regional.

This year, a shot at a second consecutive berth to the national championships is on the line.

No. 9 UCLA gymnastics is headed back to Berkeley for the second time this season to compete in the NCAA California Regional. The Bruins are set to compete Friday at 1 p.m. in the semifinal against No. 6 Denver, No. 22 Arizona State and No. 28 Washington, while the regional final would take place Saturday.

“I think out of all of the regionals that we could have been put at, this is probably the best as far as traveling, all of the things that help us stay in our bubble,” said coach Janelle McDonald. “I feel really excited because it is a place we’re all familiar with.”

The meet marks the first step to qualifying for the national championships later this month, where the Bruins could eye their eighth national team title.

UCLA will start on its highest-ranked event, floor, and will rotate in Olympic order.

“It’s a little weird, I’m not going to lie, to start on floor because it feels like it’s a finale for our team,” said senior Chae Campbell. “One thing about us is that we’re adaptable and work with what we got. So we’re going to have our floor party first and keep that momentum going through the rest of the competition.”

Although UCLA is the second-highest ranked team in their first round of competition, it fell to Arizona State during the regular season. The Bruins bounced back and outscored the Sun Devils at the Pac-12 championships.

UCLA will also be up against Denver, who outscored the Bruins at the Denver quad meet earlier this season.

But to qualify for the second round, the Bruins will have to put together all four events.

McDonald said the team’s grit has prepared them well for the postseason.

“Throughout the season, we’ve had a lot of things thrown at us, different lineup changes throughout the year, and I feel like our team really has shown just resilience and grit,” McDonald said. “I feel really confident about the work our student-athletes have been putting in and just being ready and prepare for this weekend.”

If the Bruins place in the top two in their first competition, they enter the second round of competition with a chance of qualifying for nationals.

A trip to Fort Worth on the line brings extra pressure, said freshman Katelyn Rosen.

“Obviously, there’s an added pressure. It’s almost like the elephant in the room,” Rosen said. “This could be it, but we’re not seeing it that way. We are going to go in, we’re going to attack everything, and we’re going to compete with joy as a family.”

Following its second-place finish at the Pac-12 championships, UCLA is building confidence through results.

After an uncharacteristic meet against Arizona State, where UCLA scored its lowest team total of the season, the Bruins put together two hit meets in a row, including a performance that earned UCLA its third-highest team score in program history – a 198.550.

With two hit meets behind them, the Bruins appear to be peaking at the right time.

“I feel really great about where the team is at,” McDonald said. “Our last home meet and then Pac-12s was just really showing us what we’re capable of doing, and that’s competing with the best teams in the country.”

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