It’s here. The big kahuna. The Pac-12 regular season headliner.
This meet has come down to about a single tenth the past three years. The margin was 0.050 in 2020, 0.125 in 2021 and 0.100 in 2022. Utah won each year; the Bruins last dual victory over the Utes came in 2019. The only gymnast remaining from that roster is fifth year Margzetta Frazier.
The conference rivals enter the Huntsman Center well matched yet again. Utah outflanks UCLA on vault and beam, while the Bruins top the Utes on bars and floor. Their season highs are separated by 0.125. UCLA enters with three star all-arounders putting up most of its routines: Jordan Chiles, Selena Harris and Chae Campbell lead the way. Utah leans on Grace McCallum in the all-around, but otherwise deals in a rotating cast of talented specialists. There’s just one perfect 10.0 between these two teams this season, but both teams have a few 9.975s in the books so perfection seems imminent.
Expect both teams to come out swinging. This is a rivalry meet, a mid-season test and a point of pride. It will set expectations for the conference championship next month and give us a look at what Tom Farden and Janelle McDonald consider their A lineups.
Getting close to it! Looks like Chae Campbell and Sage Thompson will both be out tonight. It seems both are illness-related.
We’re one past and I’m getting “this event has not yet started.” Looking into it, apologies if I miss first vault.
Okay we’re in! And before first vault phew.
An all-female commentary crew just fits given National Girls and Women in Sports Day last week. You love to see it.
Rotation 1: Utah vault, UCLA bars
Gilstrap (UU): Last-minute lineup addition. Yfull, little flat and piked, small hop. 9.8
Steele (UCLA): Maloney leg sep to Pak. Good half pirouette. DLO, shaping issues and short, stepped forward. 9.775
Brenner (UU): Y1.5, some knees and a small hop forward. 9.85
Padurariu (UCLA): Toe hand to Maloney, leg sep on back swig. Lovely bail hand. FTDB, good landing. 9.9
Smith (UU): Omelianchick, big hop. 9.825
Anyimi (UCLA): Blind to pike Jaeger immediate bail, loose core in the bail. Short handstand. FTDB, step back. 9.75
Rucker (UU): Y1.5, some form issues on the last half, hop to the side and she’ll have a directional error, hopped over that line. 9.825
Harris (UCLA): SO patient in her handstand. Great Tkatchev. Clean bail hand. Arched last handstand. Perfect blind full to stuck DLO. Phewww wow. 9.925
McCallum (UU): Y1.5, nice in the air, small hop forward. 9.9
Chiles (UCLA): Pike Jaeger immediate Pak, lovely. Maloney some leg sep to good Gienger. Great handstands here. FTDB small hop back. 9.95, just the hop.
Hoffman (UU): Y1.5, little low but a HUGE stick, just nailed it. 9.975, not mad.
Frazier (UCLA): Maloney leg sep. Great Pak to half pirouette. Short handstand. DLO small hop back. 9.85
AFTER 1: ULCA 49.400, Utah 49.375
Phew that was a fast and furious rotation. The early routines on both sides had some medium deductions, but wow, the back half of each lineup meant business. As promised, this one is going to be a nail biter top to bottom. Both teams move to a slightly more problematic event next, so it could be quite a telling rotation.
Update: Campbell’s absence is a family emergency.
Rotation 2: Utah bars, UCLA vault
Frazier (UCLA): Yfull, BIG, hop back. 9.775
Morgan (UU): Maloney, leg sep on backswing, crossed legs on Bhardwaj. Toe hand to toe off pike half, hop to the side. 9.875
Anyimi (UCL)A: Yfull, hip angle and a hop. 9.775
Smith (UU): Toe hand to Maloney, clean. Nice Pak, tiniest leg sep. Great pirouette. Toe hand to double Arabian, some foot form. 9.85
Lee (UCLA): Yfull, nice body position, hop back. 9.75, assuming the hop was big, hard to tell on TV
Brenner (UU): Short handstand. Blind to Jaeger, immediate bail, good. Great last handstand. DLO, hop back. 9.85
Harris (UCLA): Y1.5, such a fast twist, small hop. 9.875
O’Keefe (UU): Maloney to Pak, clean, tiniest leg sep. Good half pirouette. Double Arabian, her usual true stick. Foot form in the air. 9.95
Chiles (UCLA): DTY, wow, cleaner in the air than usual and a true stick. On replay you can see legs cross. 9.975
Isa (UU): Ray, great. Bail hand just a little off. Blind full DLO, little low, swung her arms but held her feet for the stick. 9.95
Wren (UCLA): FHS front pike half, low and really had to pike it down, very low chest on landing a huge step off the side of the mat. 9.725. That’s some Bridgeying in action.
McCallum (UU): Floaty Maloney to Pak, lost her foot form for a second. Good on the van Leeuwen. FTDB, small hop back. 9.95
AFTER 2: Utah 98.950, UCLA 98.550
Utah put together a great bar rotation, gaining significant ground on UCLA here. The Bruins really missed Cambpell’s stellar vault, but still managed a solid 49.150. That’s about all UCLA could’ve asked for on vault, it just wasn’t enough to keep up with a whopping three back-to-back 9.95s from the Utes, who were incredibly dialed in on handstands today.
Scores are…happy but not goofy, with a few exceptions. That’s my official word halfway, I reserve the right to revise it after we see the second half get underway.
Rotation 3: Utah beam, UCLA floor
Morgan (UU): Check on her front walkover mount. Bhs bhs loso, clean there. Split to straddle half, again a check, just arm swings both times. Front gainer full off the side, small step. 9.875, I’d be the 9.85 judge.
Lee (UCLA): Double tuck, excellent landing, hops gently into the lunge. Front lay front full, low on the full and stumble stepped out of it. Switch ring switch half, nice. Slightly low chest on her double pike landing. 9.75
McCallum (UU): Wolf triple to wolf double, really clean on both. Bhs loso, maybe some soft knees there. Split to straddle 1/4, low back leg in the split. Gainer tuck full off the end, true stick. Just those two small deductions. 9.975, hmm. It was more 9.9 to my eye.
Anyimi (UCLA): 2.5 to stag, little trouble connecting them and labored on the jump. Double pike, low and stumble stepped out. Clean leaps. Front lay front full, her best landing. 9.625, those first two landings
Paulson (UU): Side aerial loso, totally solid. Switch to split, really nice on those. Beat to side aerial 1.5, tried to college stick, but had to step back to salute. 9.875
Malabuyo (UCLA): Double tuck, it looked clean in the lunge, maybe a little uncontrolled. RO 3/2 front lay immediately dances out, very nice. Switch ring switch half, emphasized the stick on the landing. Double pike, low chest on the landing. 9.85
Eaker (UU): Switch mount to leap, gorgeous as always. Side aerial loso, perfect there. She’s just so engaging to watch on this event. Cartwheel gainer full, maybe the tiniest bit off balance on her landing, but if the judges go 10 I won’t be mad. 9.975
Harris (UCLA): Great full-in, controlled lunge. Huge double tuck, another good landing. Her oversplits are so nice even in a Shushunova, leaps were clean. RO 3/2 barani to double stag, her feet were a little staggered going into the jump. 9.875
Isa (UU): Candle mount. Little bobble on her choreo. Small check on her series, just popped a hip. Beat to straddle 1.4, very clean. My internet is being goofy and I missed her dismount. 9.95
Frazier (UCLA): Whip to double tuck, nice. Imprecise rotation on her tour jete half to Popa Popa. Double pike, scooted her front foot. 9.875
O’Keefe (UU): Side aerial loso, clean except for flexed feet in the aerial. Switch to split, so pretty. Tiniest check on her full turn. Bhs gainer full off the side stuck. 10, I mean they had to right?
Jordan Chiles is clapping for her from across the arena. No YOU’RE crying.
Chiles (UCLA): DLO, great landing. Front through double tuck, again, very clean. Switch full to wolf full, little over on the half rotation. Double pike, again, clean landing. That routine is such a blast. 9.95, just the leap series.
AFTER 3: Utah 148.725, UCLA 147.850
Wow, Utah. That beam rotation is No. 1 in the nation for a reason. The mistakes that exist are so minor, and the gymnasts recover so seamlessly. It’s just really beautiful, clean gymnastics in the best way. UCLA is just under a point behind; again, it missed Campbell’s number on floor, and there’s just no keeping up with the best beam number in the country so far this year. The Utes are really pulling away.
Rotation 4: Utah floor, UCLA beam
Huntsman is so loud it’s messing with ESPN’s sound.
Lee (UCLA): She moves so easily on the beam. Bhs loso, tiny check and soft knees on the bhs. Switch to straddle, really excellent. Front aerial to split, I don’t know if that’ll be credited as a connection. Bhs gainer full, little off balance but holds the stick. 9.9
Brenner (UU): Double tuck, slid backward in the lunge. RO 3/2 front lay, nice there, good twisting form. Switch side Popa, cheated the rotation. Double tuck, much better landing that time. 9.875
Alipio (UCLA): Slight shoulder drop on her full turn. Clean on her front aerial to back tuck, just a little foot form. Split leap to switch half, nice. Clean side aerial to split. Tuck gainer full off the end, really quickly salutes to avoid a step. 9.875
Gilstrap (UU): Her toe point in her choreo is lovely. Front lay to rudi, rises up in the rudi which is what you want to see. Switch to switch ring half, nicer than those usually are. Cartwheel loso for the backward element. Front lay front full, really controlled landing. That’s just a stunning routine. 9.875
Padurariu (UCLA): Wolf double, clean there. Really steady side aerial bhs. Switch to beat to sheep, big wobble, fully dropped her chest. RO 3/2 hop forward. 9.75
O’Keefe (UU): Double pike, great, hopped right into the lunge. Front lay front full, soft knees on the lay. Didn’t quiiiiiite get her tour jete full around, really whipped her upper body there. RO 3/2 front lay, stuck it and just gently stepped forward out. 9.925
Chiles (UCLA): Tiniest little knee form on the bhs in her front aerial bhs loso. Huge jumps, her wolf is just next level. Check on full turn, dances out. Side aerial, solid. Double pike, tiny hop. 9.9
Smith (UU): FHS 2/1, pretty. Lost a little momentum on her switch ring to switch half, really labored the second but the shape was nice. Crossed legs in the rudi to loso, clean landing. 5/2 to end.
Harris (UCLA): Bhs loso bhs, the rhythm on that is so satisfying. Switch to split immediate full turn, very steady so far. Pike front toss, the tiniest shoulder adjustment. RO 3/2 stuck. 9.95
Rucker (UU): FTDB, seemed a touch low on the landing to me but Kathy liked it. Switch to switch full, good. Front lay front full, nice amplitude on the full. 9.85, okay judges also thought the landing was low.
Malabuyo (UCLA): She had a fall last week. Bhs loso, small check, no fall today. Clean on her front aerial to beat. Really nice leaps, good position in the split ring. Bhs gainer full off the side stuck. 9.95, just the check.
McCallum (UU): Utah already has a 49.400 here, this is gravy. Full-in, textbook landing. Her foot form has improved so much on that. Switch full to Popa, tiny bit short of rotation on the Popa. Front lay to rudi, makes it look so easy. That was quite good. A 9.975 would win her the AA over Chiles. 9.925 not quite.
FINAL: Utah 198.200, UCLA 197.450
Well, It wasn’t quite the neck-and-neck battle we expected, but it was a barn burner. Utah figured out bars and UCLA figured out beam, which bodes well for both squads moving forward. With Cambpell back in the mix, the Bruins are in a great position for NQS time. Speaking of, this is a solid road number.
VT: Hoffman, Chiles 9.975
UB: Chiles, O’Keefe, Isa, McCallum 9.950
BB: O’Keefe 10.0
FX: Chiles 9.950
AA: Chiles 39.775
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Article by Emily Minehart
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I believe Kara Eaker had a 10.0 during the Best of Utah meet. This should be a phenomenal match up!