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Grace Glenn makes NCAA gymnastics history for UCLA in loss to Utah

UCLA's Grace Glenn achieved the first leadoff perfect 10 on beam in NCAA history Sunday against Utah at Pauley Pavilion.
(Don Liebig / UCLA Athletics)

One perfect 10 made history. Another won the meet.

After UCLA’s Grace Glenn earned the first leadoff perfect 10 on beam in NCAA history, Utah freshman Abby Paulson stole the spotlight as her perfect score sealed a dramatic 198.075-198.025 win for the Utes in Pauley Pavilion on Sunday.

Paulson’s clutch performance decided the meet even before senior Kyla Ross could finish her floor routine. While Utah celebrated boisterously, with coach Tom Farden slapping the beam in a team huddle, UCLA huddled on the side of the floor after the meet.

The Bruins, with a season-high score, were reveling too.

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“It feels like we won,” UCLA coach Chris Waller said with a beaming smile. “We killed it. It was amazing.”

However, the former Olympian still acknowledged it was painful to lose to the Pac-12 rival Utes at home. The teams have split the past six Pac-12 championships, and the Bruins had won five straight meets against Utah. Sunday was the first time UCLA had ever lost a meet while reaching the 198-point total.

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Grace Glenn achieves a perfect 10 on beam during UCLA’s meet against Utah on Sunday.

The teams that were tied at No. 3 in the rankings entering the meet with identical season averages combined for six-event season highs. Glenn’s score set the tone for UCLA’s 49.525 on beam.

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Glenn, the reigning Pac-12 beam co-champion, has the potential to score a perfect score in every meet, but her position at the top of the lineup sometimes hinders her scores. Judges typically score conservatively at the beginning of lineups to allow for flexibility later, so coaches tend to save their best competitors for last.

But Glenn’s unwavering consistency at the beginning of the lineup is more valuable to the Bruins than an extra tenth of a point. On Sunday, she enjoyed the best of both worlds.

“I’ve always tried to want to challenge myself,” the Charlotte, N.C. native said. “Since I only do one event, it’s kinda hard to stay challenged. … Always challenging myself to reach that goal has kept me very motivated throughout this year.”

Glenn’s perfect score helped the Bruins rally from a 0.125-point deficit at the halfway mark. UCLA trailed despite scoring a season-high 49.375 on vault in the first rotation because the Utes shattered their season high on bars with a 49.6.

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UCLA’s performance on beam trimmed the deficit to 0.075 going into the final rotation. Within striking distance, Waller encouraged his team to just put on a show.

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It responded by earning a season-high 49.8. The Bruins had the crowd of 7,358 roaring after each routine. Fans implored judges for another 10 after junior Nia Dennis’ energetic routine, but when the junior had to settle for a career-high 9.975, she jokingly collapsed to the floor. One of her teammates mimicked chest compressions to resuscitate her. Dennis’ score matched 9.975s from Gracie Kramer and Ross.

Halfway through Ross’ routine, Paulson’s score came in. The Utes began to celebrate. They scored 49.775 on beam, the highest of any team in the nation on the event this year.

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The Bruins were inconsistent through their first seven meets, but Waller believed the score on Sunday showed “us and the world that we’re legit.”

“It’s just letting go and enjoying yourself,” Ross said. “Because sometimes we get caught up in what’s the outcome going to be, but I think when we do our best, it’s when we focus on what we’re doing in the moment.”


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