UCLA Edged Out of NCAA Championship Berth
Raleigh, N.C. – UCLA was edged out of a NCAA Gymnastics Championship team berth by .025 at the NCAA Raleigh Regional Final. The Bruins finished with a final score of 197.400, just behind second-place Missouri (197.425) and first-place Michigan (197.800). Missouri scored 49.575 on floor exercise in the final rotation to surpass the Bruins, who scored 49.125 on balance beam.
After UCLA freshman Emma Malabuyo scored 9.975 on UCLA's final balance beam routine, the Tigers needed a 9.925 on their last floor routine to advance. Amari Celestine did just that, sealing Missouri's second-ever NCAA team berth.
The Bruins led all teams after the first two rotations after scoring 49.550 on floor exercise and 49.325 on vault. Although UCLA scored 49.400 on uneven bars, Michigan evened it up in rotation three after scoring 49.600 on vault, while Missouri inched closer with a 49.350 on balance beam, pulling to within 0.425 of both the Bruins and Wolverines.
In the final rotation, UCLA hit all six of its routines but could not get any scores over 9.825 until Malabuyo's 9.975 on the last routine, and totaled 49.125 to Missouri's 49.575.
"I'm extremely proud of the team, but it's also gut-wrenching for them as well," said UCLA head coach Chris Waller. "I felt like we were going to be able to make our way into nationals, and I think the team felt that as well. They felt really confident. I'm devastated for the team and also very proud of them."
Rotation 1: Floor Exercise
The Bruins got off to a rousing start with a 49.550 on floor exercise. After Sekai Wright led off with a 9.675, Brooklyn Moors earned a 9.875, which included a perfect 10 from one of the four judges. After that, it was four straight routines scoring 9.9 or higher - 9.9 from Emma Malabuyo and Pauline Tratz, 9.925 from Jordan Chiles and 9.950 from Chae Campbell.
Rotation 2: Vault
UCLA scored 49.325 on the strength of three 9.9+ scores from Chiles (9.900), Sekai Wright (9.900) and Campbell (9.925). Norah Flatley led off with a 9.800, followed by a 9.775 by Malabuyo. Chiles nearly stuck her vault and scored 9.900. Kendal Poston hit another big vault, scoring 9.800, and Wright had a microscopic hop on her high Yurchenko layout full, which scored a season-high 9.900. Campbell closed out the vault rotation with a huge stuck Yurchenko full, scoring 9.925 to help the Bruins maintain the lead at the halfway mark, two-tenths ahead of second-place Michigan.
Rotation 3: Uneven Bars
Michigan caught up with the Bruins in rotation three after scoring 49.600 on vault, while the Bruins totaled 49.400 on uneven bars. Campbell started the rotation with a 9.825, followed by a 9.875 from Frida Esparza. Ana Padurariu recorded a 9.800, and Malabuyo scored 9.850. Chiles earned a perfect 10 from one of the four judges and a final score of 9.950, and Flatley closed with a 9.900.
Rotation 4: Balance Beam
The Bruins hit all six routines but only three routines scored 9.800 or higher. Padurariu started with a 9.800 and 9.750 from Chiles. Esparza, who was a late substitute for Flatley and competing on beam for the first time this season, hit for a 9.750. Campbell and Samantha Sakti hit solid routines for 9.775 and 9.825, respectively. Malabuyo performed a flawless routine, scoring 9.975 to move the Bruins into the lead, but Celestine's 9.925 gave Missouri just enough to edge the Bruins.