LIVE BLOG: Meet the Bruins

The UCLA Bruins will be competing in Pauley Pavilion as reigning national champions today for the first time in close to a decade, and we’re expecting fireworks. The Bruins have looked imperious in preseason training updates, but today is our first chance to see how those skills translate on competition apparatus and under pressure.

Each of the Bruins’ two sub-squads, Blue and White, will put up three competition routines and an exhibition on each event, and the sub of each group’s twelve competition routines will be its final score. With only eight routines up per apparatus, don’t expect today to answer all of our questions about UCLA’s prodigious depth, but it should provide strong hints about the 2019 lineup mainstays.

On the injury front, we expect Stella Savvidou to miss a significant portion, if not all, of the 2019 season after more recent surgery on her wrist. Freshman Sekai Wright has been using a boot and scooter recently, indicating a likely foot or ankle injury, but we don’t yet know the nature or severity of the issue. Grace Glenn was restricted to beam in 2018 due to residual shoulder soreness from her freshman year injury, but she has been training vault and bars recently and we hope she will be healthy enough to contribute on other pieces.

From a technical perspective, the biggest question for UCLA is the number of 10.0 vaults it can put up. We’ve seen as many as eight in preseason, but the Bruins have developed a reputation for struggling to translate preseason vaults onto a competition setting on this apparatus. Sekai Wright is likely injured and Pauline Tratz appears to have dropped back to a Yurchenko full after a brief attempt at a one and a half, but that still leaves six. Watch for Nia Dennis and Kyla Ross’ recent upgrades to Yurchenko one and a halfs, freshman Margzetta Frazier’s double, and Kendal Poston’s handspring pike 1/2 as well as returning 10.0 starts from Felicia Hano and Gracie Kramer.


On the floor! Just caught the end of meet warm up after an unexpected bit of parking drama. (It’s LA, what are you going to do.) Caught a gorgeous dance through from Flatley and Ohashi’s Michael Jackson routine from last year. We had the impression she’d be getting a new one, but who knows.

Other points: No Savvidou or Wright in lineups as expected, but they’re both on the floor. Wright is in a boot but walking. Pauline Tratz is inheriting the double bun legacy. Kendal Poston is in the provisional beam lineup. Provisional vault has 5 10.0s, no Frazier. Miss Val is wearing all white and it’s iconic.

Teams are:

WHITE: Flatley, Frazier, Kooyman, Kramer, Nguyen, Pino, Poston, Ross, Sanchez, Wright

BLUE: Dennis, Glenn, Glenn, Hano, Kocian, Ohashi, Savvidou, Taubman, Toronjo, Tratz

After a choreographed Bruno Marz intro dance and Margzetta Frazier singing the most elaborate national anthem ever we’re ready to start touch.

https://twitter.com/Pac12Network/status/1071890923418615809

VAULT

Looking like white is putting up Kramer Poston Ross Flatley (ex), blue Dennis Tratz Hano and A. Glenn (ex). No Frazier.

Dennis is a next level vaulter in person. The press table shakes when she blocks.

DENNIS (BLUE): ONE AND A HALF BASICALLY STUCK. Maybe a tiny foot shift but it was THERE. Hot damn. 9.975

KRAMER (WHITE): Laid out or close to it, side step but keeps the first planted. I’d go 9.9 for that pretty happily. A touch of knees, it’s pretty similar to the Hano. 9.8, sure.

TRATZ (BLUE): Full, flared with a little hop back. Technically stronger than anything she vaulted last year, you can see she’s been working more difficulty. 9.825

Miss Val and Chris are judging, they’re just throwing out scores and then averaging them.

POSTON (WHITE): Handspring pike half, lands it and GRINS. Block is massive, loses legs a little during the half twist with a step back. Chris thinks that’s an 0.2 step, she’ll never get that in competition. 9.825 I think…?

HANO (BLUE): One and a half, nice and stretched in the air, holds it for a second before stepping forward. Now Jordyn’s throwing out scores as well. 9.85.

ROSS (WHITE): Big moment. Gorgeous one and a half, same step forward as Hano. She looks absolutely thrilled. Jordyn thinks 9.9, Chris (I think) said 9.8 and got booed.

Into exhibition now.

A. GLENN (BLUE): GORGEOUS full, none of the falling flat off the table she habitually did last year. Tiny hop back. 9.9 in comp for sure, “judges” agree with me.

FLATLEY (WHITE): Another good full, fair hop, hips look a little closed compared to Glenn but that’s an unfair standard. I think that went 9.75.

Five 10.0 starts with Frazier and Wright both potentially adding back in (no new news on Wright, but Peng-Peng described her as “back as soon as possible” which feels faintly optimistic.) and they all looked completely competition ready. Very encouraging for the Bruins.

BLUE 29.65 – WHITE 29.475, if anyone actually cares

BARS

White’s lineup is Frazier Flatley Ross with Kooyman in exo. Blue has Anna Glenn Hano and Kocian with Toronjo closing out.

FRAZIER (WHITE): Maloney to Pak, gorgeous. Van Leeuwen, no same bar, stuck double layout. That’s a completely plausible 10 if the handstands clean up. What happened to her Church?? Apparently they cut some things to clean it up. It worked. 9.875

A. GLENN (BLUE): Blind to Jaeger, amazing flight, great Pak. Nailing handstands, full turn to double back with I think a step back. Gorgeous. Cleaned up some of the hinky momentum stuff she had last year. Jordyn’s giving it a 9.75 because her chest was low. I couldn’t see that because JORDYN WAS STANDING IN THE WAY.

FLATLEY (WHITE): Weird start, giant to blind to Jaeger. Toe on, opens a bit early, to bail to toe shoot. Catches it way high and dead hangs a bit. Double layout is gorgeous. What’s up with that routine construction? 9.725. Miss Val got booed and says “She almost ate the bar, people.”

HANO (BLUE): Ray is gorgeous, overshoot a tiny bit of legs. Full turn, bit of feet, deep on the double back with a big step forward. Really exciting that she’s this close but that probably won’t be in lineup straight away.

ROSS (WHITE): Nailed the first handstand, YES SHE FIXED THE BACKSWING ON THE SHAP. Zam-style handstand on the second cast, nails the DLO. That’s a ten, I don’t even care. Crowd agrees with me. So do Randy and Jordyn.

https://twitter.com/uclagymnastics/status/1071901125924683777

KOCIAN (BLUE): Tiny bit shy on the first handstand, Maloney to Pak cleaner than she’s done in a while, goes for a half and overbalances, accidental full turn, hangs around doing some kips for a while to rearrange herself, squat on, FTDB a tiny bit messy in the air but basically stuck.

Exhibitions now.

KOOYMAN (WHITE):¬† Bit of pegs on her Maloney, good pak. Almost doesn’t get her legs together on her half turn, works it out. Leg split at the last second in the FTDB but lands it really well. Just tiny technical things. 9.8. That was not equal to Anna’s, but it’s an exhibition so whatever.

TORONJO (BLUE): Tiny bit off the first handstand, archy and close catch on her Ray, Good bail, getting handstands now, one foot shifts on DLO but really pretty. 9.8 as well.

I assume the white team took the lead with a 10 in there.

BEAM

Ross and Ohashi are sitting out today just so other people get chances. Lineup for Blue is G. Glenn A. Glenn Dennis and Hano. White has Poston Frazier Flatley and Nguyen.

G. GLENN (BLUE): Gorgeous opening choreo, she changed it and now I won’t be able to tell them apart. Flic layout is gorgeous, front aerial split, kicks a leg up and pretends it was on purpose. Switch split, full turn to front scale as always. Flic to gainer full off the side, might have had a foot shift. 9.8 is probably about what she’d get in comp with a check like that.

POSTON (WHITE): Ooh, interesting little direction changing mount sequence that¬† I don’t know how to describe. Beat jump to something 3/4. Flic flic loso, nailed it, the 2018 seniors are sitting behind me and Janay just screamed. 3/2 dismount with a little step forward. Really good, that one hasn’t been emphasized in preseason training but very solid!

A. GLENN (BLUE): Split handstand in her opening choreo, gorgeous. Nails the flic pikeout. Beat to ring jump, back leg might not be quiiite bent enough for elite but this is college so it’s fine. Full turn, moving through well, flic loso back full with a tiny foot shift. Very very good! 9.9

FRAZIER (WHITE): Ooh she has presence. The first fifteen seconds are all choreo. Split to straddle, maaaybe a touch shy on the split. Flic loso, doesn’t get the front foot down solidly, midsize check. Good front aerial. All of the choreo is fantastic. Double pike, step back but chest up. Not perfect but very emphatic. 9.75

DENNIS (BLUE): Full turn, this choreo is very Nia. Front aerial LOSO, adjustment in the middle, that’s not creditable. Switch 1/2 to split fantastic positions. Check that she dances out of. Another check on switch leap, split to beat. Double twist, holds on for a second but her weight’s forward, hop to salute.

FLATLEY (WHITE): Straddle split mount. Front aerial – LOSO, bit of legs on the layout otherwise it’s gorgeous. Side aerial, really milks the landing. She’s dramatic and I love it. L turn full turn nailed. Switch ring, check but not a bad one. Flic 3/2 twist off the end, hop in place. That acro series is going to hold her back from 10s. And the switch ring will probably disappear in February.

https://twitter.com/uclagymnastics/status/1071908065719463936

Into exhibitions.

Hano up for blue. Switch ring to beat, really solid. Flic loso, leg up, hangs on. Full turn is good, she looks like she’s having fun. Switch split maybe a touch short, side aerial back full with maybe a slight adjustment. 9.75.

NGUYEN (WHITE): She did a billion acro series on floor while everyone else was competing, hopefully it worked. Looks so confident this year. Front aerial LOSO maybe a TOUCH slow but has the best leg form of the lot. Switch split. She’s great at arresting movement with her arms. Split 3/4, really not sure if the split was there but it was good enough for NCAA, punch front full with a bit of a swim but holds onto the stick. Second best routine of the event. I think she ended up with a 9.9, not certain.

There was some odd stuff happening in that rotation but with the two best routines on the team left to add in it’s very good. I’d take the Glenns Flatley and Nguyen personally, but it’s nice to have options.

FLOOR

Lineups are supposedly Kramer Ross Frazier (Flatley) for White and Dennis Tratz Hano (Ohashi) for Blue. We’ll see what actually happens, but there haven’t been any changes so far today.

KRAMER (WHITE): Creepy music. This was my favorite routine in training clips and it’s living up to expectations. She’s so dramatic. Front double full front PIKE and keeps it in bounds, very nice. 3/2 front lay with a bit of a bounce, gorgeous. switch side Popa. Choreo is very intense and her hair is barely with standing it. Didn’t catch the last pass but landed well, maybe Rudi. 9.85 is about right, tiny bit more landing work needed but that’s going to be incredible in comp.

DENNIS (BLUE): Big cheer, she’s popular. I think this is a stronger floor routine than last year dance-wise. Pike full in is GORGEOUS and well in bounds, I wonder if she adjusted her run to buy some more space. Front full front lay, dances out. Leap series is massive. There’s the NIA, double back right on top of herself to stay in, team storms the floor after that one. Really really good. 10!! I would have taken something on the second pass, but it was definitely very serious and will be a lineup standby this year.

ROSS (WHITE): Got a fun routine this year, double bag a little cowboyed. Feels like she needs a touch more energy on this but I like it anyway. 3/2 front lay, lunges forward a little much but gets it back under control. Choreographed Shushunova I love it. Ferrari to double stag. This is really fun. Double back nailed, no stamina problems this year. Good one! Scores going high again.

TRATZ (BLUE): Rock music, I feel like I should recognize this. Hits the full in. 3/2 front full, milks the lunge. Switch ring tour jete 1/2, question mark on the splits there. Her performance quality is as monstrous as ever. Double back in the rafters, she’s done with a good ten seconds spare to dance.

These landings are postseason quality. I’m struggling to find things to complain about.

Chris Waller is giving her feedback in German, but she doesn’t understand because it’s not very good German.

FRAZIER (WHITE): Crowd clapping right from the beginning. Tumbles in an arc, full in goes sideways but she lands it. Looks like it was OOB, I’m over on the opposite corner so I can’t tell. Whip bhs bhs double back is great, side somi into choreo. Crowd engagement on this one is through the roof and they’ve never seen it before. Double pike STUCK. This is so much fun. Once she gets the first pass sorted out she’s getting 10s, she just owns this routine. 9.775 with the OOB is good.

HANO (BLUE): Double lay, usual leg sep but front foot stays planted. Front full barani running jump is good. I do mis the alien routine but this is fun anyway and the team is really into it. Worm in the middle is kind of amazing, tour jete 1/2 to wolf full. She’s really on top of the choreo, hops into lunge on her double pike, looked like she might stick it for a second. 9.95 and getting booed.

Exhibitions now.

FLATLEY (WHITE): Gorgeous violin music. Very elegant… and there’s the bass, haha. Front double full, hang on, that’s not the E pass you were training. This is beautiful, though. Underrotated double pike with a step forward. Ouch. Might end up downgrading that, she doesn’t need it. Switch ring switch 1/2 good, 3/2 front lay with a hop. A lot of tumbling difficulty, she could get away with less. Could also use a little more energy on the dance but she’s got the foundation to be an amazing performer.

OHASHI (BLUE): Doing the MJ routine for the last time. Split leg DLO is great, heel on the line, I didn’t see a flag though. Nails the combo pass, she’s GRINNING. Seat drop is my favorite, I’ve watched this so many times. 3/2 barani switch split drop. That’s probably going 10 unless they decide her foot was over on the first pass.

It’s literally tied. I also don’t think Kate even got a score. I guess everyone gets Pizookies.

No, Miss Val has made up some type of tiebreaker. It’s a stick contest… and that’s a tie too. Now they’ve brought two crowd members out to do a dance-off. Blue wins I guess. To the victor go the Pizookies. Press table is on the white side of the arena, but it’s probably unethical for me to participate anyway.

Really strong first day for UCLA. Some cleaning to do, especially on bars where some really odd composition choices were made that need to not be made, but floor looked postseason-ready and beam and vault were great considering a few of the strongest routines sat out. Top five per piece add up to 197.625, which feels about right to me. There will be more drama before postseason, but this is very encouraging as a starting point.

READ THIS NEXT: Potential Lineups: Pac-12 Part I


Live blog by Rebecca Scally

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