After its 2020 season was wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UCLA gymnastics team returns to competition on Saturday afternoon.
“I think as a team we’re all very excited to be back,” said senior Savannah Kooyman, after the Bruins ended their season in March and their Pac-12 and NCAA championship dreams were made. wiped out by the pandemic.
“Even though it’s going to be a lot different than what we’re used to in competition, you know, with, like, a crowd and stuff, I think we’re all very excited to be back there.
The Bruins (0-0), ranked No.7 in the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association preseason coaches poll, host Arizona State (1-1) in their season opener at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Pauley Pavilion.
Upper class members Nia Dennis, a senior, and Margzetta Frazier and Norah Flatley, both juniors, are ready for some big encounters after the All-American seasons in 2020.
Dennis was named second All-Pac-12 team last season in vault and floor – with a career-best 9.975 on floor. She also finished the season nationally 18th in the event, with a Beyonce-themed routine that earned her internet fame and a spot on the Ellen DeGeneres show.
“The beautiful and beautiful curse is to go viral,” said UCLA coach Chris Waller. “How do you reinvent something and find exactly the right music that will capture the essence and soul of the athlete so they can adapt to it?” Nia’s floor routine is going to be so much fun. I can’t wait for people to see it.
Frazier has also drawn attention for the dynamic floor routines involving soul and disco, but where she really shines is on the uneven bars. She scored a career-high 9.950 last season and won second-team All-America regular season as well as All-Pac-12 first-team recognition in the event.
She arrives healthy for Saturday’s game after suffering an ankle injury last season, but is improving in the season and plans to compete in the all-around.
“It’s my 17th year of gymnastics and my body is wearing out,” Frazier said. “So this year I did my best to be more patient by making my routines easier this year. I have the impression that they are a little watered down.
Flatley will score valuable points for UCLA on beam after a 2020 season that included a score of 9.95. She placed second on beam last season against Arizona State.
“I think the beam will be a highlight for us,” Waller said. “From the start of this season, shine especially at the start of the season. As the weeks go by, we get better and better at events.
UCLA (0-0) vs. Arizona State (1-1)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Or: Pauley Hall, Los Angeles
TV: Pac-12 networks