UCLA Gymnastics Gets Off to Better Start, Finishes 4th in Super 16

The Bruins may have finished in last in their season-opening event, but it was a vast improvement on how they started 2022.

They may not have earned a spot on the podium, but the Bruins still opened the 2023 season with a bang.

No. 10 UCLA gymnastics finished in fourth place at the Super 16 in Las Vegas on Saturday night, coming in behind No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 4 Michigan and No. 5 Auburn. The Bruins’ 197.275 team score was their highest in a season opener in 18 years, and it marked a clear departure from how the 2022 campaign began.

Last season, UCLA had to bow out of its first meet due to COVID-19. When they did finally open competition, the Bruins put up a 194.850 team score, which was their lowest in any meet since January 2015. Over the next few months, internal team issues turned public and coach Chris Waller resigned from his position.

What a difference a year makes.

In coach Janelle McDonald’s first meet at the helm in Westwood, UCLA broke the 197 mark, something that took them four meets to accomplish in 2022.

The Bruins got things rolling on floor, and junior Katie McNamara led off with a 9.775. Freshman Selena Harris and sophomore Emma Malabuyo posted back-to-back 9.900s, and after super senior Margzetta Frazier stumbled and failed to add a top-six score, sophomore Jordan Chiles came through with a 9.875.

Junior Chae Campbell closed the opening rotation with a 9.950, tying UCLA for second place at 49.400, just 0.025 back of Oklahoma in first.

The Bruins stayed steady through two rotations, scoring a 49.375 on vault. Frazier and freshman Maddie Anyimi posted 9.800 and 9.775s, respectively, to start thing off, but UCLA improved from there. After sophomore Emily Lee’s pass earned her a 9.850, Campbell, Harris and Chiles each went for 9.900 or better.

The gap between UCLA and Oklahoma had grown to 0.1, but the Bruins were still in second place halfway through the meet.

UCLA put up its best score of the night on uneven bars with a 49.500. Campbell’s 9.825 was the lowest score that counted, and sophomore Ana Padurariu was the only other Bruin who gave her team a score under 9.900.

Harris came through with a 9.900, then Chiles posted a 9.975 when a split-decision cost her a perfect 10. Frazier wrapped up the third rotation with a 9.950, and the Bruins were still in second place – albeit .125 points behind the Sooners.

UCLA’s night was slightly spoiled by some mishaps on the balance beam, as Lee and Campbell started the final rotation with 9.300 and 9.650s, respectively. Chiles got the Bruins back on track with an emotional 9.900, only for Ciena Alipio to put up a 9.750.

Harris came through with a 9.800 and Malabuyo ended the night with a 9.900 of her own, but they could only get UCLA up to a 49.000 on the rotation.

Auburn came in third with a 197.350, while Michigan placed second with a 197.400. The Bruins could have been the runners up had they simply scored a 49.150 on beam, but the shaky finish bumped them all the way to fourth.

Auburn’s Suni Lee won the all-around with a 39.750 – powered by a perfect 10 on beam – while Chiles and Oklahoma’s Jordan Bowers tied for second at 39.650. Harris and Campbell also competed in the all-around, coming in a tie for fifth and seventh, respectively.

UCLA will return to action Jan. 14 at the Wasatch Classic against Minnesota, Boise State and Washington. That meet will get started at 2 p.m. at the Maverik Center in West Valley City, Utah.

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