Tonight will be one for the books as six-time national champion UCLA faces off against reigning three-time national champion Oklahoma. In a huge gesture of the network’s investment in college gymnastics, ESPN will be showing this week’s biggest matchup on its main network, cutting into potential pre-Super Bowl coverage on football’s biggest day of the year to show a regular-season gymnastics meet for the very first time. This will also be a teal-themed meet, supporting survivors of sexual abuse, especially those from the Nassar case, including UCLA assistant coach Jordyn Wieber and Oklahoma superstar Maggie Nichols.
Oklahoma is expected to win this meet, but the Sooners cannot underestimate the Bruins at home. They’ll really want to capitalize on their strong bars and beam rotations and will need Nichols in the all around if they want to stay on top this week. Last week saw a disappointing and controversial loss to Florida by just 0.025, so OU will be working to keep history from repeating itself. UCLA, on the other hand, will be looking to push the envelope and show that they, too, can be competitive for the title. Kyla Ross and Nia Dennis will be key competitors in the all around, and the vault squad will hope to continue its recent success, as the Bruins have been becoming a stronger vault team than we’re used to. It’ll be a matchup to watch as some of the best and biggest names in the country congregate in Pauley Pavilion – coverage begins at 4 P.M. ET!
— UCLA Gymnastics (@uclagymnastics) February 4, 2018
If you aren’t planning to pregame for the Super Bowl by watching the first ever NCAA gymnastics meet on ESPN, we can’t be friends. #SorryNotSorry
— Elizabeth Grimsley (@AllFlippedOut) February 4, 2018
4:05pm: Ack we’re starting! Bart and Kathy weren’t even ready.
Ohashi, VT: FTY, hop on the landing but lots of height.
Jackson, UB: Piked Jaeger, not as dynamic as I’m used to from her but good. Bail is fine. Little hop forward on her full in dismount.
4:06pm: Tratz, VT: GREAT dynamics on her FTY, smaller hop than Ohashi but still a hop.
Webb, UB: great first handstand, lovely pak. Van Leeuwen is good. final handstand okay, double front with a little bounce forward.
4:08pm: Dennis, VT: big floaty FTY, and a stick! Nice!
Catour, UB: big Tkachev, nice. Bail fine, and a stuck DLO!
4:10pm: Ross, VT: better in the air for her FTY but little hop, so the score will be lower than Dennis. Nia got a 9.925!
Dowell, UB: huge Ray! lovely handstand work, perfect on the bail. DLO stuck cold!!
4:11pm: Hall, VT: Y1.5, little knee bend but stuck!! Probably the best one I’ve ever seen her do.
Lehrmann, UB: Nice Jaeger from her. Bail is textbook, even holds it for a second to show it off. Half in half out and STUCK like glue! Wow.
4:14pm: Hano, VT: Y1.5, overcooked a little so she hops forward, but I’d rather that than have her sit it.
Nichols, UB: Huge piked Tkachev, wow. Pak, doesn’t connect but the Van Leeuwen is gorgeous, . And she finds the stick too! What a meet, y’all. What a freakin meet.
After one, UCLA leads Oklahoma just barely, 49.5 to 49.475! Miss Val talking about the message of the teal meet, honoring the survivors on both teams by coming together, but still competing hard for the win. Can she just be queen of everything?
"Together We Rise is about the power that these women took back. They're changing the sport together." Crying @kathyjohnsongym. This is what gymnastics is about. THE ATHLETES.
— The Gymternet (@thegymterdotnet) February 4, 2018
4:22pm: Rotation two, here we go!
Showers, VT: Big FTY, bounce back. They’ll want better landings than that to catch up here.
Honest, UB: HUGE floaty Tkachev to start off, love that. Straddle back transition, one of her better ones to handstand. Stuck half in half out dismount with some huge height. Bruins are on fire tonight!
4:23pm: Lehrmann, VT: big FTY, little lift of the heels in slow mo but her feet do not move! That’s more like it.
Dennis, UB: good first handstand, Maloney to pak very clean, good swing. Maybe a hair short on final handstand. DLO, looked stuck but salute-stepped out of it.
4:25pm: Dowell, VT: Y1.5, super clean in her leg form. A little squatty but she sticks it! Nice. Whaaat perfect 10.0!! Go Brenna!
Meraz, UB: Tkachev solid, overshoot looked a little scary and heavily spotted for some reason? Step back on dismount.
4:27pm: Webb, VT: Omelianchik and can’t get it around, sits it. Not the momentum build they needed.
Ohashi, UB: Bail is good. Tkachev big and she goes too far, falls and rolls out of it. Gets back up, dismounts and stumbles forward on her DLO. Womp. Misses from both teams though, keeps it even.
4:29pm: Jackson, VT: Y1.5, looked like she tried to rein it in and was offcenter, had to take a step back to steady herself but stayed upright.
Lee, UB: HUGE Ray, can’t believe the air she gets. Floaty on the Bhardwaj, wow. Van Leeuwen is good, DLO piked down a little early and a salute-step out with all the momentum she had coming down.
4:31pm: Nichols, VT: identical Y1.5 that she showed at Florida where I thought she was robbed, amazing how she just drills it. Sticks, just brings her heels together to salute. And exactly as she did at Florida, she earns a 9.975!
4:32pm: Ross, UB: Maloney to bail good, toe shoot to high bar. Almost overarched a handstand in there!! Saves it, and sticks her DLO cold.
After two rotations, #1 Oklahoma leads #4 UCLA, 99.050 to 98.750. #GoBruins
— UCLA Gymnastics (@uclagymnastics) February 4, 2018
— Caroline Medley (@mycluttereddesk) February 4, 2018
4:40pm: Ready for #SuperBeamSunday y’all? UCLA goes to beam and OU will take on the floor, with three tenths separating them.
4:43pm: Nguyen, BB: Love seeing her succeeding at her new school! Front aerial to loso, nice series, very steady. Switch to split jump. Split jump half. Punch front full dismount, stuck! Solid start for the Bruins.
4:44pm: Showers, FX: Big double pike to open. Front full to front lay for second pass, nice. A little short on split in her switch ring half. 1.5 twist to front lay (?) to finish, solid. A good lead off for OU.
4:46pm: Kocian, BB: I have some strong opinions on making her a no-hand beam specialist rather than letting her redshirt this season but here we are. Switch ring to open, little bobble. Front aerial to bhs, did not look connected AT ALL, we’ll see if they take that. Switch to sheep jump, little bobble. Roundoff 1.5 twist, little undercooked but stays on her feet.
4:48pm: Dowell, FX: I think we figured out the other day that Brenna is the only gymnast in the NCAA competing a double front right now? Truly incredible, though maybe not her cleanest form on it today, legs come apart a little bit. 1.5 twist to front lay, good. Love the aggressive choreo on this for her. Good split positions on her dance elements. Front lay to front full, solid.
4:50pm: G Glenn, BB: Bhs loso, dead on. Switch leap switch leap, nice and aggressive. Front aerial, balance check but stays on, tries to minimize that as much as she can. Rest is clean, I missed it.
4:52pm: Schoepfer, FX: Double tuck to open, goes OOB on the bounce after… ooh, slow mo replay shows both feet out. 1.5 twist to front lay is good. Cutesy choreography really suits her, I really like this. Double pike, really strong here. Shame about the OOB though.
4:53pm: Ohashi, BB: Love the new stag handstand hold mount she’s doing. Front aerial to bhs, connection is fine. Switch ring to beat, nice. Bhs bhs back full, nice! One of her good ones, though not the biggest routine she’s capable of.
4:55pm: Webb, FX: Front double full to open, nice. Love her intensity, she’s so good at finding those camera angles. 1.5 twist to front full, steps out! This could be UCLA’S opening. Rudi to finish, nice. We’ll see how low that ends up being.
4:57pm: Ross, BB: Bhs loso to start, straight on. Switch ring to beat, balance check starts off small and then breaks at the hips. Stays relaxed, full turn is fine. Front aerial, steady. Side aerial to back full, step to the side.
4:59pm: Jackson, FX: gorgeous open full in, nice. 1.5 twist to front full, solid. Love this choreography for her, her musicality is so great. Double pike, pretty short on that but stays put, almost like she’s showing that her landing was awesome even if her body position wasn’t. Oklahoma needs to get this floor rotation together.
5:00pm: Lee, BB: Gorgeous flairs to open as usual. Bhs layout 2ft, one of her better ones. Double turn to beat to split, nice quick connections! Side aerial to back full, very nice. And she gets a 10!
5:02pm: Nichols, FX: Just the double tuck to open still. Having to chill out and stay in her zone as the cheers go up for Peng, same situation as last week at Florida with McMurtry. Front full to front layout step out, love that. Double pike to close, perfect control on the landing. Earns a 9.975 to tie it all up!!!
Another 9.975 give the girl a break lol
— Danusia Francis (@danusiafrancis) February 4, 2018
Even former Bruin Danusia Francis thinks Maggie got robbed, ha!
Just like last week, it's all down to the final rotation.
HERE. WE. GO.
— Oklahoma Women's Gym (@OU_WGymnastics) February 4, 2018
THEYRE TIED I CANT HANDLE THIS GOD
— Fran Elsner (@whiptotriple) February 4, 2018
Couldn’t have picked a better meet for ESPN
— 24/7 (@24_7gymnastics) February 4, 2018
5:12pm: Last one best one! Here we go!
Catour, BB: Bhs loso, straight on. Cat leap to straddle quarter, very nice. Cat leap to front aerial, she is so steady. Gainer tuck full off the end, stick! Very nice.
5:14pm: Kramer, FX: Front double full to punch front, takes it to the line but stays in bounds with a little slide forward. 1.5 twist to front lay, good control there. Good straddle positions on her dance elements. Rudi to straddle to finish, solid control. I love that routine on her!!
5:17pm: Showers, BB: Bhs loso, solid. Love her switch leap – straight jump 1/1 – korbut combination! So unique. Front aerial to beat jump, solid. Cartwheel to gainer full, stuck! Much better than last week.
5:18pm: Dennis, FX: Pulls out the double arabian! A little of control stutter forward but keeps it in bounds. Front full to front lay, good. Love this choreography on her, and there’s the name spelling. Double tuck to close, solid. Not as big as it could have been but a good one.
5:21pm: Woodard, BB: Lovely lines so far. Front toss, big balance check and can’t connect. Tries it again and falls. Crowd applauds, she gets back up, front toss to bhs and keeps going. Everything else decently hit, side aerial to back full is clean. Slow mo shows she was off to start with, no way to save it. There’s the opening, UCLA.
5:22pm: Ross, FX: Whip through to double tuck, nice! Choreo is real energetic here, love that. 1.5 twist to front lay, good. Double pike, a little low in the chest but great control on the landing. One of her better ones.
5:25pm: Lehrmann, BB: Front aerial, little balance check but keeps it small. Cat leap to switch side, steady. Bhs loso, leg up but stays on. Leap to korbut, good. Gainer full dismount, salute-step. Good save.
5:26pm: Hano, FX: Double lay to open! A little piked down but great control. Combination pass ends in a jump that should have been a stag is a running man in the air instead? That’s bizarre. Double pike to close, good control. It… gets a 10? This is the most dubious one yet for me but okay. I guess.
5:28pm: Webb, BB: Bhs loso, super steady. She’s doing revenge beam. Switch to split, solid. Side aerial to back full, stick! Nice comeback after the mishap on floor. And it’s a 10! Good for her.
5:30pm: Ohashi, FX: DLO! One of the best I’ve seen her do. Marathon pass is good, great control throughout there. I love this routine on her, the choreo suits her so well. Final pass she’s changed, didn’t catch what the twists were but finishes with another drop split, even more dramatic than the first. That’s another 10! I can see that one.
5:33pm: Nichols, BB: Bhs loso is solid. Switch to split, gorgeous split position. Full turn, super steady. Roundoff 1.5 twist, stuck beautifully. This is the fourth 10 in a row – are we just going 10 crazy so people will keep watching? Idk. This one also deserved, though, in my opinion.
5:35pm: Tratz, FX: Tuck full in, very nice. 1.5 twist to front full, solid. My best friend just told me “she’s like Scary Spice” and I think that’s the goal of this routine. Double tuck to finish, very nice. Can’t catch OU but what a competition, man.
And now there’s a tribute to the army of survivors, featuring both teams. THIS IS ON ESPN, YOU GUYS. OUR SPORT AND ITS STORIES ARE ON ESPN. With quotes from the statements, from Jamie Dantzscher, Jeanette Antolin, Mattie Larson, Jordyn Wieber, and Maggie Nichols’s mom, Gina. And they’re calling them out onto the floor now, they’re all here. Well, I’m crying now, aren’t you? When it hits Twitter, I’ll be sure to post that video here. And we’ll probably retweet it, because let’s be real, this is huge.
They’re making a circle on the floor now. Six perfect 10.0s, such a poignant, loving tribute, and the incredible parity between these two teams absolutely made it the perfect meet to be the first to grace ESPN’s main channel.
Oklahoma wins the meet, 198.050 to 197.9 for UCLA.
Is this my favorite meet of all time? Yes. Yes. Yes. The teams. The coaches. The performance. The tens. The video tribute. EVERYTHING. pic.twitter.com/CkRBkYrvx2
— Casey Magnesium (@caseymagnesium) February 4, 2018
Here’s the video tribute that played on the Jumbotron in Pauley, and across ESPN. Deanna deserves an Emmy, man.
Thank you to all of the courageous survivors who have spoken out. @UCLAGymnastics & @OU_WGymnastics are proud to call these five exceptional women members of our Bruin & Sooner families. pic.twitter.com/wAMMdEaoxU
— UCLA Gymnastics (@uclagymnastics) February 4, 2018