Saturday, the Bruin Gymnastic team will compete in the Salt Lake City NCAA regional, hoping to win their 22nd Regional title and, even more importantly, advance to the NCAA Championships on April 15th and 16th in Fort Worth, Texas for a chance to bring home their 7th National Championship.
The Bruins are the 2nd seed in the tournament behind their rival, Utah. Although UCLA won the Pac-12 Championship last weekend, seeding and rankings in gymnastics are based on a team's scores. Also, competing with the 8th ranked Bruins and the 5th ranked Utes, will be #17 Washington, #23 Southern Utah, #29 Illinois, and #32 Utah State. The two top teams will advance to the NCAA Championships.
No. 8 UCLA at NCAA Salt Lake City Regional
Saturday, April 2 - 6:00 pm MT/5:00 pm PT
Live stats: utahutes.com
Before we get into the meat of the upcoming meet (sorry), let's meet the spirit of the team - #BruinStrong:
If you want to see the kind of spirit this team engenders, take a look at their following on twitter @UCLAGymnastics and #BruinStrong.
The Road to the Regionals
As I mentioned earlier, unlike in most sports, gymnastics teams are ranked based on their numerical results. The Regional Qualifying Score is based on the top six scores, at least 3 on the road. The highest score is dropped and the other 5 are averaged. This RQS sets up the rankings. The top 18 teams are placed into the bracket according to their ranking and the next best 18 teams are placed in regions based on geography. You can see the brackets here.
Bruins Have Momentum
Last week UCLA performed extremely will and brought home their 17th conference championship.
UCLA was consistent in all events at the meet, but it was the beam that put them in the driver's seat, where they scored 49.575, the 6th highest score in UCLA history. All six Bruins scored a 9.9 or better, which is an incredible achievement. As I'm sure you know, in gymnastics six compete and the highest 5 scores are used to calculate the result. In the last rotation, UCLA needed Sadiqua Bynum to perform one of her stellar and clutch floor performances to take the championship. And she did, scoring a 9.9 on the floor.
The Regionals and The Team
UCLA will begin its rotation on the beam, which they dominate (ranked 4th in the nation). The rest of their rotation will be bye, floor (8th ranked), vault (10th), bye, uneven bars (12th).
Last year the Bruins came in 1st at the Columbus Regional, where returning Bruins Peng-Peng Lee (vault, bars, beam) and Danusia Francis (floor) came away with event championships. Samantha Peszek was not only the regional all-around champion, but also the 2015 NCAA all-around and balance beam champion.
UCLA is without Samantha this year and (possibly Peng-Peng Lee), however the Bruins have gymnasts who are comparing well to the rest of the nation. Danusia Francis ranks 2nd in the nation on the beam, Sadiqua Bynum, 7th on floor, and Angi Cipra, 11th on floor. All three were awarded regular season All-American honors.
The Bruins bring five All-Pac-12 honorees to the meet on Saturday, Bynum (1st team vault and floor), Francis (1st team - beam) Angi Cipra (1st team -floor), Sophina DeJesus (2nd team uneven bars), and freshman Katelyn Ohashi (2nd team-balance beam).
Missing from the lineup are gymnasts Rachelle Dennis, Hallie Mossett (sternum), Macy Toronjo (rotator cup), and possibly Peng-Peng Lee. Lee had a torn meniscus, which was operated on, but hopes to be ready on Saturday to compete on the bars. Fortunately, the Bruins have a lot of depth.
Danusia Francis has earned two perfect 10's this year for this routine, which includes a sideways side aerial to a full-twisting layout dismount on beam that always leaves people gasping in delight:
Sadiqua Bynum, as noted above has been clutch on floor this year, putting UCLA over the top in the final routine three times this year:
Sonya Meraz is the Bruin point leader this year:
UCLA's first year sensation, Katelyn Ohashi, won Pac-12 Freshman of the week four times in six weeks:
You may have seen Sophia DeJesus' video that went viral (currently at 13 million views) during the Super Bowl weekend which landed her an invite for The Ellen DeGeneres Show:
Also keep an eye on Peng-Peng Lee and Sophina DeJesus on beam, each have scored 9.95's this year; Francis, Cipra, Hallie Mossett, who have each scored 9.95 on floor; and JaNay Honest who scored a 9.95 on uneven bars.
More Awesome Bruins
UCLA Gymnastic's Spirit
Did I mention this team has incredible spirit (which they bring to all they do)?
Coach Val supporting women's basketball!
Besides the incredible focus and concentration it takes to succeed in gymnastics, you also need a lot of this:
UCLA should advance to the Nationals, but with gymnastics, a tiny bobble and a mere centimeter can change a score dramatically. What we do know is that these women and this team embody all things Bruin. When you look up Coach's definition of success in the Bruin dictionary, there will be a picture of the UCLA Gymnastics team.
Here we go:
Wheels up to Salt Lake City for NCAA Regionals! ✈️ pic.twitter.com/85ONM4O3ND— UCLA Gymnastics (@uclagymnastics) March 31, 2016
Good Luck Women, and as always ...