LIVE BLOG: No. 3 Utah at No. 3 UCLA

This is the marquee match-up of the weekend and one that a lot of fans have had circled for months. It’s often a spicy one, with serious and invested fans on either side not inclined to lose happily. Both teams have new coaching teams this year, as legendary coaches retired and their proteges took the reins. And both are currently ranked No. 3 in the country! How’d that happen? Oh, math? Whatever.

Utah feels in many ways the more put-together team this year, having scored below 49.0 in only one rotation all season—but last week must have felt like a missed opportunity for the Utes who had a look at a 198 before falling to pieces on floor. It’s hard to tell whether it was a fluke or whether pressure will prove to be an issue for this squad, but we’ll likely find out this week.

UCLA’s massive floor rotation, especially at home, is formidable in a close meet, but Utah can go toe-to-toe in that final rotation with a beam squad that has scored 49.600-plus both of the last two meets. So there’s no margin for UCLA to do silly things like fall on beam, and it’s time for the Bruins to show a bit more polish on vault and bars, too.

Rotation 1: UCLA vault, Utah bars

Dennis (UCLA): Her usual stunner of a full, hop back. 9.85

O’Keefe (UU): Toe on to Maloney to Pak, tiny leg split but not bad, double Arabian with messy form but stuck. 9.925

Kramer (UCLA): Better leg form than we’re used to seeing from her, one and a half a little lock legged with a step to the side. 9.85

LeBlanc (UU): Blind to Jaeger, soft on the catch, to overshoot. A little shy on a HB handstand, double lay stuck. Utah dialed in on the dismounts. 9.9

Poston (UCLA): FHS front pike half, little hop back, she looks THRILLED. 9.85

Isa (UU): Ray good, dead on the handstand on her bail. Iffy handstand before her blind full double layout, looks a tiny bit low as usual but stuck again. DAMN. 9.925

Tratz (UCLA): Show of faith in her putting her at this point in the landing. Great FTY, not the amplitude, little scoot back. 9.775

Paulson (UU): Maloney to Pak, clean through switch kip, little leg separations sneaking in, blind full double back with a step. 9.85

Hano (UCLA): One and a half, big hop forward. 9.875

Reinstadtler (UU): Toe blind to lovely Jaeger, good bail, blind full double back a little overrotated and bounces back a long way. 9.9

Ross (UCLA): One and a half, her best of the year. Little scoot that you could excuse as pulling heels together, though I don’t think so. 9.95!

Tessen (UU): Blind to pike Jaeger, great, so clean, Nailed the bail, hit aggressively and didn’t let her back go, FTDB stuck. Takes a minute with her eyes closed to smile and just absorb that. Heck of a routine. 9.95

After 1: Utah 49.600, UCLA 49.375

That really encapsulated everything we’ve been thinking about this match-up so far this year. UCLA has potential on its side, but Utah just looks so sharp so early, and with landings like that UCLA can’t compete.

We got a very sweet fluff piece in the rotation break about how excited these two coaches are to be head coaches now and Chris was basically crying about how loved and embraced he feels.

Rotation 2: Utah vault, UCLA bars

Soloski (UU): FTY, some odd arch and body dynamics but stuck. Well, heck. Have they replaced the mats with magnet ones or something? 9.825

Hano (UCLA): Ray, rotates it too far and falls. Repeats it, Ray to overshoot, blind full double back with a hop. Usual bits of form. 9.25

Hall (UU): One and a half twist, a bit underrotated with two big steps back. 9.65

Kooyman (UCLA): Maloney to Pak, little leg separation as usual but it’s little stuff, double layout and hops her feet together. Her technique has improved SO much. 9.9

Reinstadtler (UU): FTY, technically lovely, flared out and open body position as she comes into the landing, midsize hop back. 9.8

Flatley (UCLA): Giant to Higgins to Jaeger, keeps her legs straight on the catch, little arch on her toe on to bail good. FTDB dismount flung out with a step forward. 9.825

Isa (UU): Great FTY, lots of distance, little hop back.

Steele (UCLA): Maloney to Pak, high and beautiful, tiny leg separations. Hit a handstand well enough to make the whole team scream, double lay stuck-ish. Tiny shift of one foot. 9.925

Burch (UU): One and a half, pops up on her toes and really trieees to sell it as a stick though it’s not. 9.9

Kocian (UCLA): Chow to Pak, great form, she’s been a baby leg sep offender in the past but it’s great these days, FTDB very overrotated and a big step back. Thought for a second she was going to sit it.

Tessen (UU): One and a half, stuck. Beautiful in the air and just drilled. It is her DAY. 9.9

Ross (UCLA): Maloney to bail to toe shoot, got it, double layout with a hop back. Not today, Kyla! 9.925

After 2: Utah 98.875 – UCLA 98.700

Vault let the Utes down a little in the middle there, but UCLA had to count a few bars issues as well. Not sure why this would be the day that Norah would choose to upgrade her dismount but here we are.

Now the pressure’s on as both teams have to face events that have very recently betrayed them. Let’s see what happens.

Rotation 3: UCLA beam, Utah floor

G. Glenn (UCLA): BHS LOSO, nailed, front aerial to split. Switch split, love the oversplits, full turn to scale. BHS gainer full stuck. That’s her best routine. 10!!!!!!!!!

Paulson (UU): Little scoot back on her first pass which we’ve cut to halfway. Front lay front full stag jump, switch full GREAT. One and a half front lay. 9.8

Sakti (UCLA): LOSO LOSO, arm swing check and gets it back. Switch half, little leg up, to beat. That’s not getting counted. Full turn, switch split, looks off on everything. Side aerial back full stuck. 9.8 jokes

Isa (UU): Double back, wow, takes her sweet time to grab her knees and rotate that. One and a half front lay. Utah keeps turning straight out of the steps forward on front tumbling and I don’t know how I feel about it. Switch side Popa, little shuffle out. Double pike at the end is great. 9.925

Flatley (UCLA): Front aerial back pike, looked hairy as it went on but nailed the landing. Side aerial and that beautiful arm swing, L turn to split, switch split. Kathy is living for this. One and a half with leg form and a tiny bounce. In slow mo you can really see the soft knees in her acro but in full speed it hides. 9.825

Randall (UU): One of the best candidates for McCooleography, it looks great for her. Double back and keeps the front foot down though it looks a touch overrotated. Switch side Popa wolf full, I think, definitely rotated. Great double pike. One and a half front lay, slightest touch low on the second salto, but great routine. 9.9

Shapiro (UCLA): Switch switch, quick and assertive, positions borderline but I think they were there. Nailed the triple series, just pivoted the front foot to present, full turn the tiniest bit iffy. I’m being really picky at this meet. Side aerial back full. IS UCLA HITTING AN ENTIRE BEAM ROTATION? That was actually fire. 9.9

Also she may have spray painted her entire bun gold, jury’s out on that one.

Hoffman (UU): LOVELY double layout, that SCEGA form showing. Switch side Popa wolf full, slightly soft feet on the straddles. One and a half front lay, misses the punch it’s not quite right, scrabbles with her feet to try to stand it up but she can’t do it. Bummer. 9.050

Hano (UCLA): BHS pikeout, slight hip shift but quick and confident. Full turn, lot of the Bruins are overturning those today but getting through. Switch half with chest down a little and an arm swing. Couldn’t see from that angle but Kathy thinks she might not get credit. Side split half, switch split, there’s the backup combination. One and a half dismount stuck. 9.825

O’Keefe (UU): Double pike, a bit overrotated, scoots the front foot. Another one whose choreography is really detailed and shiny. Front lay front full, pretty, switch tour jete full. She’s a strong dancer because she’s not afraid to be still or move slowly and just take up space, which is a weak point for a lot of gymnasts. One and a half front full, punch is wrong and she somehow stuck it absolutely dead, weight very much on her heels but stayed with it. She looks completely shocked. Probably will be deducted on rotation anyway and it was very arched but respect. 9.9 is a slight joke.

Ross (UCLA): BHS LOSO good, love when she lands smiling. Switch ring to beat. Her arms in these combinations are so deliberate and accurate. Baby arabesque turn to little bourree, front aerial to beat, very clean. Side aerial back full and stuck. That’s her freakin routine. 9.975

Kathy says she was shaky in touch, which makes this even more exciting. In slow-mo, her weight was over her toes a LITTLE on the landing.

Soloski (UU): Double lay, archy and odd as usual but great landing. I freaking love this routine, it’s so well choreographed and just makes me smile. Missed her leap series but she got it. Front lay front full with a little bit of knees. With a gymnast with a hypermobile back like Soloski you have to choreograph for it and this one really does. It reminds me of Bridget Sloan. One and a half front lay with a slightly long lunge. 9.95

After 3: Utah 148.300 – UCLA 148.225

THIS IS SO CLOSE ksaskghsdkaglsdgk I’m so excited with both teams heading to their best events.

Stat from ESPN: 10 of the 12 gymnasts competing for Utah this year have at least one individual victory this year.

Rotation 4: Utah beam, UCLA floor

LeBlanc (UU): Switch split 1/4, tiny question on her front foot, BHS LOSO and a swim check, gets it back. Front aerial split is lovely, keeps her arms moving, I love how they incorporated the U into a piece of beam choreography that she did at Maryland too. Full turn, great, one and a half dismount with a step forward. Weird landing, looked like she panicked and scooted her back foot as well? Still a pretty decent start, nothing that needs to spook the rest of the lineup. 9.8

Flatley (UCLA): Front layout to Rudi, nailed it, I’ve always felt like I don’t quite get this routine but she’s definite;y really mastered the details of it. Lots of fine hand choreography that worls great for her. Front double twist, a little shuffly on the back leg, switch ring switch half. One and a half front lay. Very solid start. 9.925

Burch (UU): Full turn, BHS LOSO great. She doesn’t have quite the panache that some of the others in this lineup do but she’s VERY steady. Switch double stag I think, cat leap front aerial, maybe a mistake on her choreography? Weird but a tiny thing. Gainer full with a tiny scoot. 9.95 oh we HAPPY.

Lashbrooke (UCLA): Double back, weird rebound but very nice lunge, oh no, who let her have a Bollywood-themed routine. One and a half front lay. Missed split on a leap, double pike with a longer lunge. Haven’t watched UCLA in a few weeks so this is my first real look at her, I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it. 9.9 Judges have given up.

O’Keefe (UU): Side aerial LOSO, midsize leg up but arrests it very quickly. Switch split, cat leap side aerial back full. Kathy is so upset because she loves that acro series so much, but she tried to arrest it quickly and it just wasn’t to be. 9.9 anyway hahaha

Dennis (UCLA): Front lay through double back, scoots the front foot. Tour jete half split full so good, her split positions are amazing. Front full front lay, basically stuck, got the Rudi to sissone with a ton of panache. WOW WOW. Faking dead, teammates faking CPR, that looks like a 9.975.

Isa (UU): Triple series, straddle straddle quarter and lands with her hands already up. Gainer full dismount. Short and sweet and she NAILED it and looks thrilled. 9.95

Kramer (UCLA): Front double full front pike, slightly awkward lunge, leans forward for a second and Kathy got ready to gasp but we’re good. One and a half front lay Shushunova is lovely. Rudi to arch jump great. Her best routine after that first pass, but that was just a touch off compared to normal Gracie Kramer stuff. But this is just top energy UCLA, hug tackle rushing the floor for every routine. 9.975

Randall (UU): BHS LOSO nailed, beat to sheep very steady. Will never love the position on that sheep but she’s steady enough and it just doesn’t really get deducted in NCAA. Orphan sissone and nailed the Rulfova, got a few shrieks out of the blue and gold crowd, one and a half dismount almost stuck, just has to hop to salute. Utes want a 10 anyway and it’s not far off. 9.975

Hano (UCLA): Got the double lay, maybe a BREATH underrotated but not really stressing over it. This is my favorite UCLA routine by choreography this year, maybe next to Kocian’s. Front full Barani double stag is good, tour jete half wolf full. Love a gymnast who bothers to actually lunge out of a leap series. Double pike, looks just a touch off with when she kicks out but lands it very well. 9.95

Paulson (UU): Side aerial LOSO, little toe shift, in this scoring environment it doesn’t matter. Switch split, Full turn, slow and steady, she must know she could get a 10 but not freaking. Beat jump side aerial back full stuck. Oh, they could. Will they? They did. Neat.

Well, a fun thing happened where WordPress died on the last update and I lost Kyla’s floor! It was good, little bouncy on the second pass, 9.975 is all you could expect in this situation.

Final: Utah 198.075 – UCLA 198.025

WOW that was ridiculous and stupid and a blast and hilarious and upsetting and everything at the same time. I loved it. I don’t even know how to recap it.

Can we agree that no matter what, your team is not a victim here and also that we don’t need to cry and scream over a quarter tenth? Thanks. Live a little!

VT – Kyla Ross (UCLA) 9.950
UB – Kim Tessen (Utah) 9.950
BB – Grace Glenn (UCLA), Abby Paulson (Utah) 10.000
FX – Nia Dennis, Gracie Kramer, Kyla Ross (UCLA) 9.975
AA – Kyla Ross 39.825

Live blog by Rebecca Scally

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