Nothing motivates an athlete quite like losing. An error, a setback, a loss hurts in the moment but the best athletes and teams recover and rebuild into something better. And for the number two and defending national champions UCLA Bruins, a stinging, rage-inducing loss to Pac 12 rivals Utah last season at home in Pauley Pavillion fueled the Bruins onto something bigger and better.
And now 12 months later, an undefeated run and another national championship later, UCLA came into the hostile, electric environment of the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City and delivered a statement performance at just the time in the season when so many are struggling. Snapping the Red Rocks’ two-meet win streak in the rivalry, the Bruins posted a huge number to upend Utah 198.025-197.625.
Starting on the uneven bars, an event where UCLA has struggled at times, the Bruins came out swinging, putting up some huge numbers from Margzetta Frazier and Madison Kocian for 9.875 and 9.925, respectively. The opening rotation for the Bruins was capped off by Kyla Ross‘ Perfect 10.0 in the anchor spot, an exclamation point for UCLA. On the vault, Utah started off strong as well, with the one-two punch of Makenna Merrell-Giles and MyKayla Skinner going 9.925 and 9.950, respectively for the Utes.
UCLA kept up the strong start on vault with some powerful Yurchenko one-and-a-halfs from Ross and Felicia Hano going 9.925 and 9.950, respectively. Utah was brilliant on the bars in front of their home crowd, with Merrell-Giles and Skinner again leading the way with scores of 9.875 and 9.950 to close the lineup.
In the third rotation, the Bruins begun to really separate themselves with their electric and unique floor routines on full display in front of the away crowd. UCLA saw three 9.900s from Ross, Hano, and Gracie Kramer and was capped off by a near-perfect 9.925 from senior sensation Katelyn Ohashi in the anchor spot. Meanwhile, Utah posted the best beam rotation of the season so far for the Red Rocks, with Adrienne Randall and Alexia Burch going 9.875 to set up Skinner again for an almost perfect 9.950.
The final rotation saw the first real setback for UCLA on the always-difficult beam, where Madison Kocian fell and scored a low 9.2225. The rest of the Bruin beam lineup was forced to deliver under loads of pressure, with freshman Norah Flatley setting the tone immediately after with her 9.900 to set up Ross for a 9.950 and then Ohashi with a 9.925 to clinch the win for the Bruins. Despite the deficit heading into the final rotation, the Utes continued to fight and perform with high energy on the floor, where Kari Lee posted a 9.900 and Sydney Soloski and Skinner closed with 9.925s.
The thrill of this rivalry meet for the Bruins and Red Rocks won’t dissipate next week, as second-ranked UCLA will go on the road for a blockbuster duel against number one Oklahoma in Norman while Utah will see Michigan come into the Huntsman Center next week.Tags: Adrienne Randall, Alexia Burch, Felicia Hano, Gracie Kramer, Kari Lee, Katelyn Ohashi, Madison Kocian, Margzetta Frazier, NCAA Gymnastics, Norah Flatley, Pac 12, Sydney Soloski, UCLA, UCLA Bruins, Utah, Utah Utes