UCLA Begins Postseason at Pac-12 Championships
Venue: Maverik Center
Time: Session 1: 12 p.m. MT / 11 a.m. PT; Session 2: 7 p.m. MT / 6 p.m. PT
Television: Pac-12 Network
TV Talent: Jim Watson (play-by-play), Amanda Borden (analyst)
Live Stats: pac-12.com/gymchamps
UCLA COMPETES FOR 20TH PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 13 UCLA (6-2) is the No. 4 seed at the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships, which will take place on Saturday, Mar. 20 in West Valley City, Utah. The two-time defending champion Bruins, who are seeking their 20th Pac-12 team title, will compete in the evening session at 7pm MT, along with No. 1 seed California, No. 2 seed Utah and No. 3 seed Arizona State. Competing in the afternoon session at 12pm MT are No. 5 seed Oregon State, No. 6 seed Arizona, No. 7 seed Washington and No. 8 seed Stanford. Seeding is determined by national rankings, which are based on National Qualifying Score (NQS). The Pac-12 champion will be the team with the highest score from the two sessions. Individual champions will also be determined via combined sessions.
Both sessions of the Pac-12 Championships will be televised live on Pac-12 Network, with Jim Watson and Amanda Borden on the call. Live stats will be available at pac-12.com/gymchamps, and live updates can be found on Twitter by following @UCLAGymnastics.
UCLA will begin the meet on floor exercise, where the Bruins are ranked No. 1 in the conference and No. 6 in the nation. After floor, the Bruins will move to vault, uneven bars and then conclude on balance beam. Top-seeded California chose the Olympic order and will start on vault. No. 2 seed Utah chose to start on uneven bars, and No. 3 seed Arizona State elected to begin on balance beam. In Session 1, Oregon State opted to start on uneven bars. Arizona will begin on vault, Washington on floor exercise and Stanford on balance beam.
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
UCLA has won the most conference championships among the eight member schools with 19 Pac-12 titles (1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2016, 2018, 2019) and 1 WCAA title (1981) in 32 years. Oregon State (1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, 2011, 2013), Stanford (1998, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008) and Utah (2014, 2015, 2017) are the only other teams to win Pac-12 titles.
UCLA has dominated individually at the Pac-12 Championships as well, winning a conference-best 100 individual titles. The Bruins have been especially dominant in the all-around, winning 20 titles, including the most recent - Kyla Ross in 2019. UCLA gymnasts have won 23 titles on uneven bars, 20 each on balance beam and floor exercise, and 17 on vault.
LOOK BACK AT 2019 PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIPS
At the last Pac-12 Championship in 2019, UCLA posted a Pac-12 Championship record and season-high 198.400 to capture its 19th Pac-12 team title. Bruins won all four events and the all-around, with Kyla Ross winning her second all-around title and first outright, defending her uneven bars championship with a perfect 10 and sharing the floor exercise title with Katelyn Ohashi and Utah's MyKayla Skinner with a 10.0. Ohashi tied with teammate Grace Glenn for the balance beam title, with each scoring 9.950, and Felicia Hano tied for first on vault with a 9.950.
LAST TIME OUT
UCLA concluded the regular season with a 197.100-193.575 win over San Jose State on Mar. 13. The Bruins tied their season-high team total and set a new season-best on floor exercise with a 49.500 to finish the year unbeaten at home with a 4-0 record. Freshman Chae Campbell won the all-around for the second-straight week, scoring 39.500. She also tied for first place on floor exercise with seniors Nia Dennis and Pauline Tratz, each scoring 9.925. UCLA swept the individual events, with Dennis winning vault, Margzetta Frazier winning uneven bars and Samantha Sakti taking first on balance beam.
FLATLEY EXPECTED TO RETURN FOR POSTSEASON
Junior Norah Flatley is expected to return to the uneven bars lineup this weekend at the Pac-12 Championships. Flatley missed the entire regular season after injuring her ankle in warmups at the season opener. A second-team All-American on uneven bars in 2019, Flatley holds a career-high of 9.975 on the event and averages 9.860 on bars in her career, with eight scores of 9.9 or higher.
DENNIS SELECTED AS FINALIST FOR AAI AWARD
Nia Dennis has been selected as one of six finalists for the AAI Award, which is presented to the most outstanding senior female gymnast in the country. She joins Alyssa Baumann (Florida), Lynnzee Brown (Denver), Kyana George (California), Lexy Ramler (Minnesota), and Anastasia Webb (Oklahoma)) as finalists for the prestigious award, which will be announced in April. In its history, UCLA has had four winners – Vanessa Zamarripa in 2013, Jamie Dantzscher in 2004, Mohini Bhardwaj in 2001 and Donna Kemp in 1984. This is the fourth consecutive year a Bruin has been an AAI Finalist, as Dennis joins Kyla Ross (2020), Katelyn Ohashi (2019), and Christine Peng-Peng Lee (2018 and 2017).
Dennis has recorded a career-high 39.475 in the all-around this season and is the only Bruin to score 9.9 or higher on all four events, with highs of 9.950 on floor exercise and uneven bars, 9.925 on vault and 9.900 on balance beam. She has a team-best 12 scores of 9.9 or higher, including a team-high three 9.95s. The Bruins' top vaulter, she is averaging 9.872 and ranks 23rd in the nation on the event. She is also Top 30 on uneven bars.
She is a 2019 first-team All-American on uneven bars and helped the Bruins capture the 2018 NCAA Championship and 2018 and 2019 Pac-12 Championships. A four-time All-Pac-12 honoree, she also has two Pac-12 Specialist of the Week awards in her career, in 2021 and 2019. Throughout her career, she has 23 individual event wins, including 11 this season.
Senior Pauline Tratz has been one of UCLA's most consistent athletes this season, averaging over 9.8 on vault and floor exercise. She has been especially hot on floor exercise in the last five meets, averaging 9.905 with a high of 9.950 on Mar. 6 at California. In the Bruins' regular season finale Mar. 13, Tratz tied for first place on floor exercise with a 9.925 and recorded a season-high 9.875 on vault to tie for second. She was subsequently named the Pac-12 Coaches Choice Award winner.
Known primarily for her vault and floor exercise, Tratz added uneven bars and balance beam to her repertoire in her final season. At the start of the year, she hit big clutch performances on uneven bars in the first two meets while the Bruins were short-handed on the event due to injuries. Put in the anchor position and under pressure to hit due to a fall from an earlier competitor, she delivered each time, scoring 9.65 in the opener and improving to 9.775 the following week at Arizona. She also performed an exhibition routine on balance beam for the first-time ever as a Bruin on Senior Day and hit her routine.
IT'S JANET, MISS JACKSON ...
Junior Margzetta Frazier received the call of a lifetime on Feb. 19 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.
Frazier has done it all for the Bruins this season, competing in the all-around in every meet. She has scored 39+ in each meet, with a high of 39.550 set while winning the all-around Feb. 27 against Oregon State. She leads the team with 12 9.9+ scores and has a team-high four victories on uneven bars. Frazier currently ranks 18th in the nation in the all-around and seventh on uneven bars.
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 went 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 recorded a career-high 39.475 in the all-around this season and is the only Bruin to score 9.9 or higher on all four events, with a pair of 9.95s on floor. She is also tied for the team lead in individual victories with 12. Dennis is a finalist for this year's AAI Award, presented to the top senior in the nation.
Although more than half of UCLA's expected freshmanclass 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. All three freshmen have received a Pac-12 weekly honor this season, with Chae Campbell winning Freshman of the Week honors three times, Frida Esparza winning once, and Sara Ulias receiving the Coaches Choice award.
Campbell has become an all-around force, recording a high of 39.625 on Mar. 6 and ranking 17th in the nation and fourth in the Pac-12. She already has career-bests of 9.925 or better on vault, beam and floor, along with a 9.875 on bars, and has 12 individual titles. 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. Ulias made her competitive debut on Feb. 10 against BYU, scoring 9.725 on uneven bars and improved her score to 9.875 in a second-place finish at Utah and 9.925 with a third-place results against Oregon State. She also debuted on floor exercise on Feb. 14, scoring 9.725. Esparza has four Top 3 finishes on uneven bars, and Ulias has three.
FLOORED BY FLOOR
UCLA's floor exercise lineup has turned heads in a big way, with not just one but two routines going viral, plus another one gaining attention from national media. The Bruins are ranked sixth nationally and first in the Pac-12 on floor and averaging 49.278, with a high of 49.500 set a week ago. All six of the floor regulars have career-highs of 9.875 or better, and four have career-bests of 9.950 or better. Nia Dennis, whose floor routines have gone viral in each of the last two years, has scored 9.950 twice this season with her routine she calls "The Culture", and she has a career-best of 9.975, set a year ago. Margzetta Frazier went viral with her Janet Jackson routine, scoring a season-high of 9.925 the first time she competed the new routine. She has a career-high of 9.950 and is currently averaging 9.878 this season. Chae Campbell averages a team-high 9.911 on floor, the only Bruin with a season average of 9.9 or better, and her career-best 9.950 routine at Utah was shared by SportsCenter. Pauline Tratz has scored 9.950 and 9.925 in her last two meets and is averaging 9.864. Sekai Wright's 90's Boy Band routine has become a fan favorite, and she has scored a career-best 9.875 three times in her last four meets. Emma Andres has scored as high as 9.825 this season and has a career-high of 9.875.
The Bruins have had their best vault rotations of the season the last three weeks, averaging 49.308 in those last three meets and 49.197 overall on the year. Against Oregon State on Feb. 27, they stuck five of six vaults to score 49.225. Nia Dennis earned a season-best 9.925 to win the event. Margzetta Frazier (9.850), Emma Andres (9.825), Pauline Tratz (9.800) and Chae Campbell (9.800) also stuck their Yurchenko layout fulls, and Kendal Poston had a small hop on her handspring pike front half, scoring 9.825. Andres' vault was her first one this season, and it set a new career-high for her. The Bruins improved their season-high a week later at Cal, scoring 49.375, thanks to a perfect 9.95 score from Campbell and a second-straight 9.925 from Dennis. The Bruins have scored 49.1 or higher on vault in seven of eight meets and rank eighth nationally on the event. Five Bruin vaulters have season averages over 9.8 - Dennis (9.872), Campbell (9.869), Poston (9.841), Andres (9.825) and Tratz (9.816). Frazier is just a hair under 9.8, at 9.797.
RAISING THE BAR
The Bruins' uneven bars squad had a huge performance on Feb. 27, scoring 49.550, the team's highest event score on any event this season and UCLA's highest bars score since Apr. 6, 2019. UCLA's bar team was boosted by the return of Nia Dennis on Feb. 10 and are looking to add another All-American in Norah Flatley this weekend. Dennis, a 2019 first-team All-American, has won bars twice this season, and she tied her career-high of 9.950 on Feb. 27 against Oregon State. Margzetta Frazier ranks seventh nationally and first in the Pac-12 on uneven bars and owns five 9.9+ scores this season, including two 9.95s in the last three meets. Freshman Sara Ulias joined the 9.9 club with her career-high 9.925 on Feb. 27. She has earned Top 3 finishes on bars in three of her last four meets. Frida Esparza has also excelled on the event, winning bars twice with scores of 9.9. She is averaging 9.8625 in her last six meets. At the top of the lineup, Chae Campbell scored a career-high 9.875 Mar. 6, and Savannah Kooyman has a season-best of 9.850. The Bruins have scored 49.1 or higher in each of their last six meets.
BEAM ME UP
UCLA will end the Pac-12 Championships on balance beam, which is nothing new for the Bruins on the road. UCLA's best beam score this season came at Utah, a 49.425 in a six-for-six rotation. Kendal Poston led off on beam for the first time in her career and scored a season-high 9.875. Samantha Sakti followed with a 9.900, and Margzetta Frazier scored a career-high and meet-winning 9.925. Nicole Shapiro came in as a last-minute replacement and hit her routine for a 9.725, and freshmen Frida Esparza and Chae Campbell closed with scores of 9.875 and 9.850, respectively.
Sakti has been the Bruins' biggest scorer on beam, hitting 9.9 or higher six times in eight meets, with a career-high-tying 9.950 at Arizona on Jan. 31. Five different gymnasts (Campbell, Dennis, Esparza, Frazier and Sakti) have scored 9.9 or better on beam this season, with a total of 12 9.9+ scores. The only other event the Bruins have scored more 9.9s on is floor exercise. Poston, Shapiro and Norah Flatley have also scored 9.9 or higher on beam in their career.
IN THE RANKINGS
UCLA sits at No. 13 in the national rankings, which are now based on National Qualifying Score (NQS). The NQS this season is calculated by average of the four highest scores, two of which must be on the road. The Bruins rank No. 6 on floor, No. 8 on vault, No. 13 on bars and No. 19 on beam.
Individually, Margzetta Frazier ranks 18th in the all-around and seventh on bars. Chae Campbell is 17th in the all-around and 15th on floor. Samantha Sakti ranks 20th on beam, and Nia Dennis 23rd on vault.