UCLA gymnasts excel in Pac-12 meets

LOS ANGELES – The UCLA Bruins women’s gymnastics team has proven that they are one of the best teams in the country. In back-to-back meets on Feb. 19 and Feb. 25, the Bruins went toe-to-toe with No. 5 Utah and No. 2 Cal and didn’t blink.

Both meets, hosted by the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion, came down to the final routine. This is where both the Utes and the Golden Bears were able to nudge the Bruins to come out victorious.

UCLA gymnast Selena Harris flies through the air during her beam routine against Cal on Feb. 25, 2024. Photo credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

With one final home meet left (March 16 against Clemson) before the Pac-12 Conference Championships (March 23), the Bruins have shown throughout the season that they can compete with any team.

Sandwiched between UCLA’s tough two-week meets against Utah and Cal, the Bruins end their season road travels with Stanford (whom they defeated) and Arizona before ending the regular season against the No. 29 Tigers.

The Cal meet on Feb. 25 was a terrific gauge of just how good this UCLA squad is. The No. 10 Bruins had a lot of excellent performances from their top athletes but were not able to defeat Cal. The Golden Bears won the meet, posting a 198.400-197.775 win against the dazzling Bruins.

Whenever these two Pac-12 Conference rivals compete against one another, the meet figures to be tough. Last year, the two teams placed a tie in a meet that took place in Berkeley, 197.975-197.975. Adding more fuel to this rivalry, Janelle McDonald, who took over the UCLA gymnastics program as head coach in 2023, was an assistant coach for Cal from 2019 to 2022.

This year’s UCLA-Cal meet provided a lot of fireworks. UCLA junior Emily Lee scored career-highs during the meet with 9.95 on beam and 9.9 on vault and floor. Lee serves as the leadoff gymnast for the Bruins for all three routines.

“For me, I just feel like there were just small little bumps in my routine that I just needed to iron out and felt like I finally did that today and it was just really nice to see that the score reflected that,” Lee said during the post-meet press conference.

“Emily is just that confident steady personality and you know she warms up quick and is ready to go it’s a great fit to put her in those leadoff roles, especially on beam,” McDonald said about Lee being in the leadoff role. “She’s great to have her as a leadoff and I’m really proud of her.”

Lee mentions that being back at the gym the team has been grinding and has been listening to being “intentional on all the little things” she said.

UCLA gymnast Frida Esparza performs her routine on beam against Cal on Feb. 25, 2024. Photo credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

Chae Campbell also had a career-high with 9.95 on bars and even picked up a perfect score (10) from one of the judges. Frida Esparza and Selena Harris both came up with 9.95 scores, with Esparza setting a new career high.

“I’m really happy with how today went you know I felt like we were in the mind the right mindset and just really connected in a way we needed to be today,” McDonald said. “They were really focused on the little details. I saw a lot of improvement across the board.”

eMjae Frazier, the Cal sophomore sensation and sister of UCLA gymnast Margzetta Frazier, performed a perfect 10 on the floor exercise against the Bruins and was named the Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week.

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