LIVE BLOG: Meet the Bruins

I am back. I am ready. I am so excited that I’m even excited to be submitting a live blog draft on Thursday night. It’s tradition at this point! I did 55 live blogs last year, and I’m hoping to finish 2020 with even more, so I’ve got to get an early start.

I’m also excited because UCLA has done a fantastic job generating interest in this meet. It’s been tweeting out sneak peeks of textiles over the last week, ranging from glamorous to plain bizarre.

At first, most fans thought these were leotard hints and were horrified. Now, most seem to think they’re clues to floor routine themes. My theory is that Operation Peacock, UCLA’s annual costume extravaganza in which gymnasts get to dress up as their floor character for a day, will be taking place today in front of an audience instead of in practice as usual. If we do, in fact, get to dig into the Bruins’ choreography, rest assured I’ll have some very detailed thoughts to share.

There are obviously plenty of questions to ask regarding the character of UCLA’s new coaching staff and how they’ll affect the vibe and competitive ability of the team this year.  We won’t get all of our answers today, but my general impression is that where the previous crew encouraged and facilitated the team having a good time, the new staff actively participates in the partying.

Oh, what, there’s also gymnastics? We haven’t seen a ton of revelatory content this preseason, but we know Kyla Ross is attempting an upgraded bars set, Margzetta Frazier is doing a side somi combo pass on floor and Samantha Sakti looks like a leading contender for the beam lineup. Grace Glenn is recovering from surgery earlier in the summer but seems to be back on beam.

Follow along with the video for free here. I don’t think there’s going to be a live score for this thing, since usually scores are determined by coaches yelling out a number that they feel is right, but if that changes, I’ll link it too.

No Anna Glenn, no Kocian on bars today. Neither is a HUGE shock but good to confirm. Just one freshman routine, Kalyany Steele on bars. Samantha Sakti doing beam is great news!

The audio on the stream is poor and crackly, but at least we can hear the alumni band rocking their version of Hot N Cold by Katy Perry.

Margzetta Frazier on the national anthem and killing it as usual.

Rotation 1: Vault

I can’t hear a freaking word anyone says but Chris is wearing his blue velvet suit so that’s something.

Vault judges are Brittani McCullough, Brielle Nguyen and some other less fun people whose names I didn’t bother to write down.

Tratz – Blue: Her hairstyle is BEYOND this year. Crimped side pony. Yurchenko full, a little closer to the table than I’m used to seeing from her but stick. Touch of pike down. 9.875

Frazier – Gold: Another FTY, hop back, closed hips pretty much the whole vault. 9.825

Poston – Blue: FHS front pike 1/2, looked like slightly soft knees prior to the twist to me, hard to tell in the replay. Hop back but chest up early, good one for her. 9.9

Janay didn’t know that that was a 10.0 start. I wish I could give you scores, but we are not being told anything.

Wright – Gold: Yurchenko one and a half, doesn’t even look hard. Slow and controlled twist, tiny hop in place. 9.9

Kramer – Blue: Yurchenko one and a half laid out, her usual level of underrotated, maybe twenty degrees short and takes two quick steps back. Chest was never really over her feet. 9.75

Dennis – Gold: Yurchenko full, stuck dead, her usual. The flare is unparalleled in NCAA. I thought she twisted onto the table a touch, maybe a leftover of her 10.0 vault attempts earlier in the year but this vault is so good that they probably won’t take the risk of upgrading it. 9.95

Hano – Blue: Yurchenko one and a half. She’s had knee form issues in the past on this vault. Not today. Chest up, small hop forward, tons of amplitude. 9.9

Ross – Gold: One and a half, off to the left a touch on the table and hops further over. Tried to stick and couldn’t but it’s still good. 9.85

Gold 29.7 – Blue 29.675 9 (Provisional Team Score 49.525)

Five 10.0 starts today. I don’t think Kramer will make the lineup during season with good fulls in reserve, she’s just not quite consistent enough. Wright and Hano looked fantastic on their one and a halfs and this very well could be the year Poston cracks the lineup.

Rotation 2 – Bars

We’re going to get our two exhibitions before the touch warm up.

Shapiro – Blue (EXH): Hard event to get back after so much time away, blind change Jaeger to bail, a bit short of handstand. Missed a handstand, blind full to double back, tightly tucked, with a step back. A bit more work to do but she’s a gymnast again! Good for her.

Sanchez – Gold (EXH): Blind to Jaeger, soft knees, open body position. Missed a handstand badly before her bail, blind full double back, hop forward. Similar level of execution deductions to Shapiro, though she has different issues.

Janay does not know that there are only four teams in national finals now. She is very sure that it’s still Super Six.

Taubman – Gold: Hop change to Jaeger, rotating way too slowly and totally misses the bar. Toe on to bail, actually great, she can do a handstand. Double lay too slow again, big leg split and chest down on landing. 9.0

Hano – Blue: Ray, are her legs on the catch better than before? to overshoot, solid. Blind full double back super high with a step back. Still not a special routine but a one they might need again pending injury statuses on the Glenns and Kocian. 9.8

Frazier – Gold: Her yellow tape on bars brings me joy. Maloney to Pak, hitting the handstands, van Leeuwen, maybe that handstand was off, double lay, stick. Camera angles aren’t helping me regarding how the high bar handstands are, but that looked great. 9.95 I’m not furious about it.

Steele – Blue: Maloney to Pak, nice and high, half turn, almost loses her balance on the low bar, NAILING handstands, double lay a touch flung out with a step back. I wasn’t super optimistic on her cracking the lineup in her first year but that looked great. 9.7,

Dennis – Gold: Maloney, catches a bit dead, big leg sep on the backswing as she tries to get her swing back, bail caught leaning heavily sideways. Double layout beautiful and stuck. Chaotic start, strong ending. 9.9 is silly, the first half was a mess. 9.9 nope, full crack.

Toronjo – Blue: A touch short on her first handstand, Ray with usual messy catch, misses a handstand badly into her bail, casts over on the high bar and has to drop down and recast. Double layout too close to the bar with a hop. 9.0

Ross – Gold: Maloney to Pak to toe on to Maloney to bail, casts over on the high bar and jumps off. Cast over and jump off a second time. DLO close to the bar with a hop forward. WILD. 8.85

Flatley – Blue: Normal eagle whatever, Jaeger to bail, FTDLO lands low with a big step forward. Not the day for bars upgrades today. Released way too early to get it around. 9.875 okay we’re getting silly here

Blue 58.75 – Gold 58.55 (Provisional team score: 98.750)

Well, that was exciting. Clearly Ross bombing is not going to be a regular thing, but still highlights that there isn’t much bars depth on this team. I thought Dennis’ score should have been lower and Steele’s higher.

Rotation 3: Beam

Shapiro – Blue (EXH): I missed her flight series, silly stream. Full turn, cat leap side aerial tuck back full and hops sideways off the mat.

Poston – tentative, switch back tuck, good dismount.

Hano – Blue: BHS to pikeout, little arm swing, full turn. Switch half a little short, beat jump. Sideways split 1/2, one and a half dismount stuck-ish. 9.875 is a little silly.

Dennis – Gold: Full turn, front aerial, tries to connect, check and goes back to retry. Front aerial LOSO, the cleanest anyone does. Side aerial to one foot, switch split! I love that. One and a half dismount with a hop. 9.80

Flatley – Blue: Front aerial front aerial Korbut, definite knee form issues in that one. Side aerial, L turn to split to beat, BHS to one and a half dismount with a hop in place. 9.95

Frazier – Gold: Switch to straddle 1/4, slight check on choreo, front aerial back tuck slowly connected. She has a fun sideways roll combination on the beam. Full turn, lovely control, side aerial to beat jump. This is really fluid. Front aerial to front full off one foot. Nice!! 9.875

Sakti – Blue: LOSO LOSO is ethereally good, arm swing to control it. Some mixed combo I failed to write down, side somi lands with a big leg split, side aerial back full with a step. 9.9

Kocian – Gold: Full turn, BHS LOSO looks like it has a bit of leg form and a midsize hip bend check. Front aerial to split, tentative connection there, switch split. One and a half dismount with a hop. and step forward. She doesn’t have a lot of panache on beam but she gets through. 9.7

G. Glenn – Blue: BHS LOSO, major hip bend check. Front aerial to split, switch to split, full turn to I scale is my favorite. BHS gainer full off the side, stuck. 9.825

Ross – Gold: BHS LOSO lovely and airy, switch straddle quarter, mini arabesque turn with a little wobble in the middle, front aerial, arm swings. Side aerial back full with a little hop. 9.7

Blue 88.475 – Gold 87.975 (Provisional team score 148.175)

Rotation 4: Floor

Lashbrooke – Gold (EXO): Double tuck tight and beautiful. One and a half, misses the punch, barely scrapes the front layout around. Double pike, has to pull really hard to get it around. Choreography is nothing special on this one, but she’ll get more UCLA as time goes on I’m sure.

Wright – Blue (EXO): Two and a half twist, definitely lands still twisting. Front full, front LOSO, connects into dance. Double tuck short with hands down. Routine is solid but she does not have the stamina for it yet, and I miss her Bruno Mars routine :((

Toronjo – Gold (EXO): Double pike is weird, one and a half front lay, good leaps, double tuck way  too slow and open, hands down.

Well, none of these looked like imminent lineup threats.

We may be in for an interesting half hour coming up, folks. Sounds like their version of Operation Peacock is themed leotards for the lineup gymnasts.

Kocian – Gold: Okay, definite pool party vibes already. One and a half to Rudi, little bounce. Wow! Switch half to Popa, beautiful, little bounce out, double pike super high but slow and lunges forward. 9.725

Flatley – Blue: This is a LOT of mesh.

Front lay to Rudi, okay, this choreography is super weird. FHS front double full, one and a half front lay. Really good landings, I’m not sold on the performance. 9.875

Dennis – Gold: This leotard is the worst thing I’ve ever seen honestly. There are crowns on the wrists and the back says NATION.

Double layout, spotted, two steps back but that’s not super representative. Someone told me her music is Beyonce. I can’t even tell what her split combination is, very bouncy and imprecise rotation. Front full front lay, holds the landing a little longer than last year before the usual jump to one foot. Rudi to split, great. 9.825

Tratz – Blue: Her music is from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off but this is still about Coco Chanel somehow. Her leotard is velvet.

Full in, lunge forward but didn’t look badly underrotated. One and a half front full, one foot slips but she keeps it standing. Double back solid. This routine is so her. It’s a LOT but she got to get all her faces. 9.75

Frazier – Gold: This leotard has a full-on cardigan in it.

Half in half out, form actually a lot better than she’s done in the past. Choreography looks a lot more polished than some of the others we’ve seen. Side somi thru double back, little scoot into the lunge, I think I’m supposed to know what this music is but I don’t. Tour jete half Popa good, double pike a little shuffly but not bad. 9.925

Kramer – Blue: We always knew the Joker would be her. Not even a surprise.

FHS front double full punch front, looked off to one side but then she pulled it back in. Half of this choreography is a direct repeat from last year. One and a half punch layout, step back. Good leaps. Rudi, somehow misses the arch jump and sort of runs forward into the ending choreo. 9.85

Ross – Gold: I think her theme is just the concept of gold. This leotard is honestly worse than I expected from the photo.

Whip double back. One and a half front lay, tour jete half Popa looks underrotated to Shush. Double pike, odd rhythm, lands well. 9.875

Hano – Flower leo is honestly beautiful.

Great double lay, twisting combo, she has the best landings of the team so far, she’s kept the swimming thing for some reason,  just kidding! Underrotated the double pike and dives forward, I think there was a hand down. 9.425 oopsie.

Final: Blue 117.950 – Gold 117.600 (Provisional Team Total 197.525)

That was a pretty good show considering that it’s December. Before you lose your mind about underrotated final passes, keep in mind that a lot of teams aren’t even doing competition landings or are using heavy coach spots at their intrasquad. UCLA is competition-ready earlier than many of its competitors, and a few stamina issues aren’t a catastrophe. Scores were also clearly nutso, but after watching Red Rocks Preview last night where there were just none at all and half of the vaulters were caught by a coach as they rebounded, I’m glad for any semblance of a grown up meet.

What I am a touch worried about is bars. Steele should be in the lineup weekly and save us from Toronjo, but I hoped to see a Glenn back and consistent in 2020. There will likely be at least one routine that isn’t up to the top-team standard in that lineup. The others, I think, will settle out over time.

Live blog by Rebecca Scally

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One comment

  1. Bars I actually think is the most solid lineup. Ross, Kocian, Dennis, Frazier, Flatley and Steele. All of those ladies besides the Frosh Steele have scored 9.9 or better with NCAA nationals judging.

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