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UCLA Gymnastics Opens 2022 Season Monday at Minnesota

Jan 12, 2022
Kendal Poston and the Bruins will face the Minnesota Golden Gophers on the road Jan. 17.

MEET INFORMATION
Broadcast: Big Ten Network
Talent: Dean Linke, Olivia Karas
Live Stats: gophersports.com

SEASON OPENER
UCLA's season officially begins on Monday, Jan. 17 at Minnesota with a dual meet against the Golden Gophers at Maturi Pavilion. The meet will take place at 12pm CT/10am PT and will be televised live on Big Ten Network. Both teams ranked in the Top 10 in the preseason coaches poll, with UCLA at No. 8 and Minnesota at No. 9. The Bruins were originally scheduled to compete on Jan. 8 at the Collegiate Challenge but were unable to compete due to COVID-19 protocols. The meet was eventually canceled when four of the other five teams were also unable to compete.

FOR OPENERS ...
UCLA has won seven of its last nine season openers, including last year's 196.150-195.950 victory over Arizona State. This is the first time UCLA has opened the season at an opponent's home arena since the 2015 season, when UCLA beat Oregon State on the road, 196.000-195.450.

MINNESOTA BOUND
UCLA heads to Minnesota for the first time in 18 years. The last matchup in Minnesota came on Jan. 25, 2004, a 197.550-196.325 dual meet victory for UCLA. The last meeting between the two teams took place on Feb. 27, 2011, when UCLA beat Minnesota and Denver in a tri-meet in Pauley Pavilion.

ABOUT THE BRUINS
UCLA returns four Pac-12 champions in Chae Campbell (floor), Margzetta Frazier (bars), Pauline Tratz (floor) and Sekai Wright (vault). Campbell went on to earn All-America honors in the all-around, beam and floor, and Frazier picked up her third consecutive All-America honor on uneven bars. The Bruins return 20 of 24 routines from their 2021 postseason squad. The freshman class, ranked No. 2 nationally by College Gym News, is led by Olympic silver medalist Jordan Chiles, Canadian Olympian Brooklyn Moors, Olympic alternate Emma Malabuyo and World beam medalist Ana Padurariu, all of whom deferred enrollment a year ago while training for the delayed Olympics. The Bruins went 14-7 overall in 2021 and finished third at the NCAA Morgantown Regional.

SUPER SENIORS RETURN
The Bruins regained the services of fifth-year seniors Kendal Poston and Pauline Tratz when the pair opted to return for an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their leadership and experience will be a huge asset for a Bruin team that has seven freshmen and just five athletes who have competed at the NCAA Championships. Poston and Tratz are the last remaining Bruins from their last NCAA Championship squad in 2018. Poston, a three-time Scholastic All-American, competed on vault and beam in every meet in 2021 and has career-high marks of 9.9 on those two events. Tratz, the 2021 Pac-12 Gymnastics Scholar-Athlete of the Year, earned All-Pac-12 honors on floor in both 2018 and 2021 and earned a share of the Pac-12 floor title last season. Tratz's top marks are 9.95 on floor, 9.925 on vault and 9.775 on bars.

FLATLEY BACK AT FULL STRENGTH
After missing the entire 2021 regular season with an ankle injury, senior Norah Flatley is back at full strength for 2022. Flatley injured her ankle during warmups of the Bruins' season opener and did not return until she competed on uneven bars at the Pac-12 Championships, where she scored 9.875. She returned to balance beam at the NCAA Regionals and scored 9.875 on day one and 9.900 on day two. Flatley earned All-America honors on uneven bars as a freshman in 2019 and is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection on beam. She holds career-bests of 9.975 on bars and 9.950 on beam and floor.

FROM TOKYO TO WESTWOOD
Before arriving to Westwood for their freshman season, a trio of Bruins spent part of their summer in Tokyo at the 2020 Olympics. Jordan Chiles, who deferred enrollment two seasons to pursue her Olympic dream after originally signing her national letter of intent in November 2018, made her dream a reality by being selected to the U.S. team in June 2021 after third-place finishes and eight-for-eight performances at both the U.S. Championships and the Olympic Trials. Chiles memorably stepped in unexpectedly with hit routines on bars and beam during the team final in place of teammate Simone Biles, who was unable to compete. Emma Malabuyo deferred enrollment for a year after the Olympics were delayed, and her UCLA postponement also paid off, as she was named an alternate for the U.S. squad after a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Championships and a ninth-place finish at the Trials. Brooklyn Moors redshirted in 2021, enrolling remotely while she continued to train in Canada for the Olympics. She qualified for the all-around final at the Olympics, finishing 16th overall. Also joining the three freshmen in Tokyo was UCLA alumna Danusia Francis, who represented Jamaica as an individual competitor.

NCAA COMPETITORS
Although UCLA did not qualify as a team to the 2021 NCAA Championships after finishing third at the NCAA Morgantown Regional, three Bruins qualified as individuals - all-arounder Chae Campbell and individual event competitors Nia Dennis (vault) and Margzetta Frazier (bars). Campbell had an outstanding all-around competition, finishing 14th overall in the all-around and earning second-team All-America honors. She also finished fifth overall on beam with a career-high-tying 9.925 and was seventh overall on floor with a 9.9375. Frazier scored 9.875 on bars and finished in the Top 25, and Dennis successfully completed a double-twisting Yurchenko, the hardest vault in the competition.

LAST TIME OUT - MEET THE BRUINS
UCLA gave fans a sneak peek of the season on Dec. 17, hosting a blue vs. gold head-to-head competition at Meet the Bruins. Led by a pair of victories by Margzetta Frazier, Norah Flatley and Alexis Jeffrey, the gold team edged out the blue team, 8-7. Blue grabbed a 2-1 lead after the first rotation after Pauline Tratz stuck her Yurchenko full, and Emma Malabuyo hit a strong Yurchenko full, but gold took the lead for good in rotation two with a clean sweep on uneven bars from Jeffrey, Sara Taubman, Flatley and Frazier. The blue team stayed in it by winning three of five on beam, led by leadoff Ana Padurariu, Samantha Sakti, and Jordan Chiles, who stuck her double pike dismount. Needing a sweep on floor to win, Frida Esparza gave the blue team some hope with her first round victory, but Sara Ulias slammed the door shut with her La La Land jazz routine to clinch the win for gold. Malabuyo won the final round, her second victory of the night.

SCOUTING THE GOPHERS
Minnesota entered the season ranked ninth in the preseason coaches poll after finishing eighth overall at the NCAA Championships. The defending B1G Ten champions are led by fifth-year seniors Lexy Ramler and Ona Loper. Ramler was the 2021 AAI Award winner and a three-time B1G Ten Gymnast of the Year. She holds career-best marks of 39.85 in the all-around, 10.0 on vault and beam, 9.975 on bars and 9.950 on floor. Loper finished fourth in the all-around at the 2021 NCAA Championships and scored two perfect 10s on vault last season.

SCHOLAR-ATHLETES
Seven returners, including five members of this year's senior class, earned WCGA Scholastic All-America honors in 2021. Pauline Tratz (Communications) earned her fourth honor, while Kendal Poston (Political Science), Samantha Sakti (Psychology) and Sara Taubman (Human Biology & Society) were selected for the third time and Norah Flatley (Political Science) for the first. Also receiving Scholastic All-America honors were junior Paige Hogan (Environmental Science) and sophomore Sara Ulias (Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology). The WCGA Scholastic All-America team recognizes gymnasts who carry a 3.5 or higher cumulative grade point average or a 3.5 grade point average for the academic year.

UCLA SIGNS HARRIS, ALIPIO
UCLA signed Selena Harris and Ciena Alipio to national letters of intent in the early signing period. Harris, from Gymcats in Las Vegas, is College Gym News' No. 1 recruit and the reigning Level 10 all-around, bars and beam champion. She qualified for her second Nastia Liukin Cup after earning the top all-around mark at the California Grand Invitational with a 38.975. Alipio, a San Jose, Calif. native who currently trains at Midwest Gymnastics Center, won bronze in the all-around at her first senior international competition, the Arthur Gander Memorial, in November. Alipio is a current member of the U.S. National Team.

INDUSTRY LEADERS
UCLA Gymnastics has the largest social media followings in all of women's collegiate sports, ranking No. 1 in combined followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, a total over 1 million. The team has an additional reach of over 1 million on TikTok (474k followers) and Snapchat (607k subscribers). The Bruins rank first among all NCAA gymnastics teams on Instagram (425k), Facebook (627k) and Twitter (86.8k). On Instagram, UCLA Gymnastics is the second-most followed women's sports team account in the nation, trailing only the U.S. Soccer Women's National Team. Among all UCLA teams, gymnastics ranks first on Instagram and Facebook. Follow the Bruins at @UCLAGymnastics on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Snapchat and on Facebook at facebook.com/uclagymnastics.

LOOKING AHEAD
The Bruins will open Pac-12 play on Sunday, Jan. 23 at Oregon State at 2pm. The meet will showcase a pair of 2020 Olympic medalists in UCLA's Jordan Chiles (team silver) and Oregon State's Jade Carey (floor gold).