Late Surge on Floor, Beam Helps UCLA Gymnastics Tie California
Ten consecutive scores of 9.900 or better in the final two rotations helped the Bruins come back and post a season-high team score in Berkeley.
The Bruins were working from behind late Saturday afternoon, but they finished strong to match the Golden Bears’ own defining performance.
No. 6 UCLA gymnastics notched its second dual-meet draw in four weeks, coming from behind to tie No. 7 California 197.975-197.975 in Berkeley. Both the Bruins and Bears brought their respective A-games, with each side notching new season-high team scores in the in-state rivalry showdown.
UCLA was able to stage its comeback by cutting into Cal’s substantial lead with a prototypically strong 49.650 on floor, then wiping it out entirely with an emphatic 49.625 on beam. All ten of the scores the Bruins counted in the third and fourth rotations were 9.900 or better.
After sophomore Emily Lee opened with a 9.750 on floor, sophomore Emma Malabuyo, freshman Selena Harris, redshirt senior Margzetta Frazier and sophomore Jordan Chiles banged out four straight 9.925s. Junior Chae Campbell capped things off with a 9.950 on floor, and the Bears’ lead had gone from 0.350 down to 0.225.
Lee was once again in the leadoff position on beam, and she recovered with a 9.925 to keep the momentum going. Freshman Ciena Alipio and sophomore Ana Padurariu each posted 9.900s, then Harris and Chiles scored back-to-back 9.950s.
Beam was UCLA’s lowest-scoring event in three of their first four meets of 2023, but it was a top-two event for them for the second time in three weeks on Saturday.
The Bruins had two event scores over 49.600 in 24 tries this season entering the weekend, but they exceed that mark twice in one meet up in Berkeley by crushing it on both floor and beam.
Still, the torrid finish wasn’t enough to outpace Cal, since the home team had some cushion to work with due to a stronger first half of the meet.
The two sides were tied at 49.400-49.400 through one rotation, with the Bruins posting their second-worst outing of the season on the uneven bars. Campbell opened the day with a 9.850, and senior Kalyany Steele followed that up with a 9.825.
Harris came through with a 9.875, and then Chiles took things to the next level with a 9.950. Frazier closed out the opening rotation with a 9.900.
The Bruins once again got five hits in the second rotation, but none of their vault scores were above 9.900. Freshman Maddie Anyimi and Frazier each earned 9.825s, then Campbell and Harris dropped back-to-back 9.900s.
Chiles anchored with a 9.850 to bring UCLA’s score to 49.300 on vault, making it three weeks in a row where it was their lowest-scoring event. Meanwhile, the Bears got a 49.650 on bars, building out the insurance they would need to fend off the Bruins down the stretch.
It wasn’t enough of a lead to secure a win, though, and UCLA erased the deficit with a handful of home run performances on floor and beam.
As a result, coach Janelle McDonald was able to avoid a loss in her return to Berkeley, tying her former team in the process. It also evened the playing field for Frazier and her sister on Cal, eMjae, who won the all-around with a 39.700.
Chiles tied Cal’s Mya Lauzon for second in the all-around with a 39.675, while Harris came in fourth with a 39.650.
UCLA has one more road meet left in the regular season before it can settle back in at Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins will take on Arizona in Tucson on Feb. 26, and coverage from Pac-12 Networks will begin at 12 p.m.
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PHOTO COURTESY OF LIZA DAVID/UCLA ATHLETICS