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UCLA gymnastics continues perfect season and dazzles a huge crowd

UCLA gymnastics continues perfect season and dazzles a huge crowd
The UCLA women's gymnastics team cheers ahead of their Pac-12 meet against Arizona State at Pauley Pavilion on Monday. (Katharine Lotze / Getty Images)

When Kyla Ross finished her floor routine and UCLA gymnastics fans showered her in applause, coach Valorie Kondos Field turned around.

She clapped for the audience.

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As Ross performed, Kondos Field choreographed the Bruins’ student section, part of a crowd of 10,270 that watched the Bruins defeat Arizona State 197.775 to 196.125 in Pauley Pavilion on Monday. The attendance was nearly double the 5,440 fans who watched the home opener Jan. 4.

“I love our home crowd,” senior Katelyn Ohashi said. “Nothing matches it.”

The strong turnout came in Ohashi’s first performance since her floor routine earned a perfect 10 and went viral the week before, with more than 100 million views online.

Ohashi might have drawn an audience, but the entire team impressed. It was the first time in program history that UCLA scored 197 or higher in each of its first three meets.

“It shows that our default is so high and so good,” Ohashi said. “We always practice on not letting mistakes seep through our training so I think that just shows.”

In vault, the Bruins tied their season high with a score of 49.175, even though Ross’ hand slipped and resulted in a clumsy landing. Nia Dennis posted a 9.950 to earn vault champion.

When Dennis performed on the uneven bars, she paused in a handstand over the apparatus then tipped backward, falling off.

That motivated the Bruins even more, junior Madison Kocian said.

Freshman Norah Flatley earned a 9.975, Ross a 9.950. When Kocian stepped up to the uneven bars, she wasn’t thinking about her score.

Said Kocian: “I just told myself … just do it for the team.”

Kocian brought the crowd to its feet, roaring, when her routine proved flawless, and the judges awarded her a 10. It was the second perfect score of her career — her first since Feb. 11, 2017 — after being limited on the uneven bars last season because of a shoulder injury.

Ohashi, ranked No. 1 in the nation on balance beam, did not participate in the event, getting rest after a whirlwind week that included a trip to New York City to appear on “Good Morning America.” That left Kocian to lead UCLA on beam with a 9.875, and the Bruins finished the third rotation with a lead.

Each UCLA performance in the floor exercise was exceptional, with Margzetta Frazier and Ross earning 9.950 — Ross in character as a robber stealing perfect 10s from the judges — to an electric crowd.

Ohashi went last.

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“There was a bit of added pressure, but I try not to let it get to me because I have the same mindset every time I go into a competition,” Ohashi said. “Like, it’s my favorite thing ever, so just try to have fun.”

She dazzled with the routine once again, earning a 9.95 to be named floor co-champion with Ross and Frazier. Kocian was named beam champion, and Ross won the all-around competition for the third straight meet.

UCLA (5-0) is off to a historic start and the Bruins are reveling in every moment they have with Kondos Field, who is in her final season as coach.

“They’ve come in every single day with a mission, ready to go,” Kondos Field said. “And we want to win out. … UCLA gymnastics has never gone undefeated. So that’s something new for me. I’d like to do that before I retire.”

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