UCLA Gymnastics Hosts Black Excellence Meet Saturday
No. 13 UCLA vs. Oregon State
Date/Time: Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021 – 11 a.m. PT
Location: Los Angeles, Calif. (Pauley Pavilion presented by Wescom)
TV: Pac-12 Networks
TV Talent: Jim Watson, JaNay Honest
Live Stats: uclabruins.com
UCLA HOSTS OREGON STATE IN BLACK EXCELLENCE MEET
UCLA (4-1, 3-1 in conference play) will host Oregon State (2-3, 1-2) on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 11am in Pauley Pavilion presented by Wescom. The morning matinee will be televised live on Pac-12 Networks with Jim Watson and 2018 NCAA champion JaNay Honest on the call. The meet is UCLA's first-ever Black Excellence Meet, which celebrates the achievements and accomplishments of the Black community. The Bruins will wear a new black and gold Black Lives Matter leotard, which features a raised Black fist on the right sleeve. The leotard was designed by Associate Head Coach Kristina Comforte and student-athletes Nia Dennis, Margzetta Frazier, Sekai Wright and Chae Campbell.
ALL-AROUND BLACK GIRL MAGIC
Showing off that Black Girl Magic in the all-around for the Bruins have been Nia Dennis, Chae Campbell and Margzetta Frazier, all three of whom have scored 39.400 or higher this year. Dennis has the Bruins' highest score of the season with a career-high 39.475 set on Feb. 10 in the all-around season debut. It was her first-ever all-around title in her first all-around attempt since January 2019. She had not competed on uneven bars for two years due to a shoulder injury, which she had repaired in June. Campbell has two all-around victories this season, winning at Arizona and at Utah with best marks of 39.425. Frazier has competed in the all-around in every meet so far and has earned Top 3 finishes in each one. Her season-high is 39.400, set at Utah, and she has a career-high of 39.550, set a year ago. Frazier, Campbell and Dennis, in that order, have also closed out the floor exercise rotation in all but one meet. Sekai Wright has joined them in the floor rotation the last four meets and has gradually improved her score in each meet, with a high of 9.875 last weekend at Utah.
ABOUT THE OPPONENTS
Oregon State enters the meet ranked No. 35 in the nation, 13th on vault, 15th on floor exercise and 22nd on balance beam. The Beavers have three gymnasts ranked in the Top 25 on individual events - Kaitlyn Yanish, who ranks fourth in the nation on floor exercise; Lacy Dagen, who ranks 14th on vault; and Madi Dagen, who is 21st on balance beam.
BRUINS TURNED BEAVERS
The Beavers are coached by a pair of Bruins in head coach Tanya Chaplin and associate head coach Michael Chaplin. Tanya, then Tanya Service, was the first-ever Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year in 1987 and won the award a second time in 1989. Michael was a member of UCLA's 1987 NCAA Men's Gymnastics championship squad, along with current UCLA head coach Chris Waller.
LAST TIME OUT
UCLA put together its strongest meet of the season, scoring 49+ on all four events and recording a season-high team total of 197.100, but it wasn't enough to defeat No. 3 Utah, who edged out the Bruins with a 197.225. The Bruins (4-1, 3-1 in the Pac-12) scored 49.4+ on their final two events, earning 49.400 on floor exercise and a season-high 49.425 on balance beam to nearly catch the Utes (7-1, 4-0).
CAREER-BEST PERFORMANCES AT UTAH
Four Bruins achieved career bests at the Utah meet, including freshman Chae Campbell, who tied her all-around best with a first-place mark of 39.425 and set a new career-high on floor exercise with a 9.950. Junior Margzetta Frazier made big improvements on her career-best marks with a 9.925 on beam and 9.875 on vault. Her all-around total of 39.425 was her season-best. Junior Sekai Wright improved her career-high on floor exercise to 9.875, and freshman Sara Ulias earned a second-place mark of 9.875 to set a new personal best on uneven bars.
IT'S JANET, MISS JACKSON ...
Junior Margzetta Frazier received the call of a lifetime last Friday morning before the Bruins competed at Utah. On the line, on FaceTime, was none other than superstar Janet Jackson. A week earlier, Jackson had shared Frazier's new Janet Jackson floor routine to her social media, helping Frazier's routine go viral. Jackson also posted video of her call, where she told a tearful Frazier that she inspired her and that she would like her to teach her some gymnastics. Frazier has since been featured on Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood.
DENNIS BREAKS THE INTERNET ... AGAIN
For the second time in as many years, and after her first performance of her new floor exercise routine, Nia Dennis has gone viral. Dennis' routine celebrating black culture picked up steam in a hurry after it was posted to social media the day after the Bruins' season opener. Within an hour, it went viral, and the video currently has 11M views on Twitter alone. Her routine was shared by the likes of Michelle Obama, Janet Jackson, Missy Elliott, Common and Kerry Washington. Dennis made a repeat visit to The Ellen Show and appeared on the Today Show, the NBA on TNT and Access Hollywood. Last season, Dennis' Beyonce routine also went viral, as did a TikTok video of her hitting the woah in her routines.
Dennis is not resting on her internet fame. She has recorded UCLA's top all-around score this season with a 39.475 and is the only Bruin to score 9.9 or higher on all four events, with a pair of 9.95s on floor. She also leads the team with eight individual victories. Dennis is a nominee for this year's AAI Award, presented to the top senior in the nation.
Although more than half of UCLA's expected freshman class did not make it to campus this year as they pursued Olympic berths, the three freshmen who are in Westwood are making a huge impression on the Bruin team. Chae Campbell has become an all-around force, recording 39.425 in just her second collegiate meet and receiving Pac-12 Freshman of the Week acclaim twice. She already has career-bests of 9.9 or better on vault, beam and floor, along with a 9.85 on bars. Frida Esparza has two uneven bars victories and won Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors after her first meet, during which she won bars with a 9.9 and scored 9.8 on beam. Esparza improved upon her beam score the following week, scoring 9.9. Sara Ulias made her competitive debut on Feb. 10 against BYU, scoring 9.725 on uneven bars and then earned a second-place finish at Utah with a career-high 9.875. She debuted on floor exercise on Feb. 14, scoring 9.725.
UCLA's highest-ranked event this season is vault, where the Bruins rank No. 10 nationally. This is all the more impressive considering UCLA had only competed five vaulters in all but one meet, with just one 10.0 start value vault among the five (Kendal Poston). Both Chae Campbell and Nia Dennis have scored 9.9 this season, and Poston has a high of 9.875. Campbell is the team's highest-ranked vaulter at No. 23. The Bruins competed six vaulters for the first time on Feb. 10 against BYU, adding Sekai Wright, who competed a 10.0 start-value Yurchenko 1.5 vault. The Bruins have scored 49.1 or higher on vault in four of five meets.
RAISING THE BAR
The Bruins' uneven bars squad is rounding into form with the return of Nia Dennis and Kalyany Steele. Dennis returned to the lineup on Feb. 10 for her first uneven bars routine since 2018 (shoulder injury) and scored 9.8. She improved her mark to 9.85 on Feb. 14 and then won the event at Utah on Feb. 19 with a 9.9. Steele returned on Feb. 14 for her first routine since Feb. 29 and contributed a 9.725, improving to 9.75. Also making her way into the bars lineup was freshman Sara Ulias, who scored a career-high 9.875 to tie for second place at Utah. Margzetta Frazier and Frida Esparza have been the Bruins' highest-scoring performers, with Frazier earning a high of 9.925 and Esparza twice hitting 9.9 with two victories.
Bruin seniors Nia Dennis, Savannah Kooyman, Kendal Poston and Pauline Tratz have been rock solid this season, hitting a combined 40-for-41. Dennis has scored 9.8 or higher on all but two routines and leads the Bruins with two 9.95 scores. Kooyman is averaging 9.775 on bars with a high of 9.825. Poston averages 9.831 on vault, with a high of 9.875, and 9.788 on beam, with a best of 9.85, achieved while in the leadoff position at Washington Feb. 14. And while Tratz has been strong on her usual events - vault and floor - with highs of 9.85 and 9.9, respectively, she also provided clutch uneven bars routines the first two meets, hitting under pressure situations despite having not competed at all on bars as a Bruin prior to this year
IN THE RANKINGS
UCLA entered the week No. 13 in the national rankings, which are currently determined by season average. The Bruins rank No. 10 on vault, No. 11 on beam and floor, and No. 17 on bars. Individually, Nia Dennis ranks seventh in the all-around and 24th on floor. Margzetta Frazier is 23rd in the all-around and 18th on floor, and Chae Campbell is 12th on floor and 23rd on vault.