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    UCLA gymnastics seeks to start Pac-12 slate on high note in return to Pauley Pavilion
    • January 26, 2024

    The No. 15 UCLA gymnastics team is returning home to Pauley Pavilion for the first time since Dec. 15 this weekend when it hosts Washington in its Pac-12 opener on Saturday.

    The Den, UCLA’s student section, has Bruins’ floor exercise choreography memorized and is ready to once again lend support to the team. The gymnasts are ready for dual meets after traveling for quad meets for the last three weeks and dealing with the distractions that can come with them.

    “We’re excited to get home in our comfort zone and just really be able to have less things going on around us to really focus in on what we need to do to be able to compete,” coach Janelle McDonald told reporters on Thursday.

    Graduate transfer Nya Reed and true freshman Katelyn Rosen are two Bruins who will be making their competitive debut at Pauley Pavilion a week after a quad meet in which UCLA placed third behind No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 12 Denver.

    The Bruins didn’t finish above third place in any of their quad meets this season, which also included the Mean Girls Super 16 Gymnastics Championships and the Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate Quad.

    Rosen contributed to the team score in three events in Denver and had an additional exhibition routine in floor exercise. She said on Thursday that it’s a goal of hers to work into the all-around lineup, but McDonald did not disclose if it would happen this weekend.

    “She just stepped out of bounds in the exhibition spot, but aside from that she had a really clean routine,” McDonald said. “So we’re just kind of dialing in those details and we’re excited for her to get more opportunities.”

    UCLA is tied for sixth nationally in with an average vault score of 49.3 and five gymnasts had scored over 9.8 in the quad meet in Denver. Chae Campbell’s 9.875 and Rosen’s 9.85 were among the highest UCLA scored, and Reed contributed a 9.8.

    It’s a marked improvement in an event that UCLA struggled in last year, a result of conscious effort from the Bruins. Coach Kyle Grable comes up with different games to keep the gymnasts competitive at practice and they’ve placed a heightened emphasis on sticks.

    “I don’t think we’re far off from being number one,” Reed said. “We’re very, very hungry. Vault squad, we push each other. We’re correcting each other after every single vault we do. We’re asking questions, we’re curious. It’s been a great thing to be a part of.”

    The Bruins scored a season-high 49.575 on floor and are now tied for seventh nationally in the event in terms of average score. Selena Harris led the team with a 9.95 score in Denver, followed by Campbell and Reed who each scored 9.925.

    Rosen is used to competing in stadiums in elite gymnastics, but she said the crowds aren’t as enthusiastic as the ones in NCAA gymnastics — especially when it comes to the people who pack Pauley Pavilion.

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    Reed previously competed for Florida in an SEC conference that also embraces gymnastics. She said LSU, which is the No. 3 team in the nation right now, had a particularly exhilarating atmosphere.

    Environment plays a factor in gymnastics, and the right scene in the Bruins’ home gym as well as in their minds could be what they need to recover from a grueling preseason quad meet schedule and start the Pac-12 season in the right direction.

    “Everyone plays a different part when it comes to Bruin bubble,” Reed said. “That’s something we’re still working at and making sure we have to a T. You’ll definitely see it this weekend, bringing the energy and just being that family that we are in practice.”

    No. 15 UCLA gymnastics vs. Washington

    When: 6 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Pauley Pavilion

    TV: Pac-12 Network


    ​ Orange County Register