Eighth-ranked and six-time NCAA champion UCLA (13-6) will compete at the NCAA Championships April 18-20 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) in Birmingham, Ala. Competition begins on Friday, April 18 with two semifinal sessions at 1pm and 7pm CT. The Bruins will compete in the evening session, along with Florida, Alabama, Utah, Nebraska and Penn State. Afternoon session competitors are Oklahoma, LSU, Georgia, Michigan, Stanford and Illinois.
The top three teams from each semifinal will advance to the Super Six Team Finals on Saturday, Apr. 19 at 6pm. Individual event finals will take place on Sunday, Apr. 20 at 2pm. The all-around champion and individual event finalists will be determined during Friday’s semifinals. Individuals qualify for event finals by placing in the Top 4 (including ties) of that particular event during their own semifinal session.
A live stream will be available for all three days of competition. The semifinals will be streamed at ncaa.com, and the team and individual event finals will be streamed on ESPN3. Additionally, live updates can be found on Twitter by following @UCLAGymnastics. The team finals will be televised delayed on ESPNU on Apr. 30 at 5pm PT.
The rotation order for the semifinals was determined by blind draw. UCLA, will start on balance beam before moving to a bye, then floor exercise, vault, another bye and uneven bars. Florida has Olympic order and will start on vault. Alabama begins on a bye before bars. Utah starts on bars, Penn State begins on a bye before floor, and Nebraska starts on floor.
UCLA’s NCAA Championship History
The Bruins have won six NCAA gymnastics titles - in 1997 at Florida, 2000 at Boise State, 2001 at Georgia, 2003 at Nebraska, 2004 at UCLA and 2010 at Florida. This is UCLA’s 30th overall appearance in the 33 NCAA Championships.
Individual NCAA History
A total of 16 Bruins have won 31 NCAA titles to rank second behind only Georgia (40) in individual NCAA titles. UCLA has won at least two individual titles in nine of the last 16 years and a team or individual title in 12 of the last 16 years. Since 2000, the Bruins have captured 20 individual titles, the most of any school during that time period.
UCLA’s last NCAA championship came in 2011 when then-freshman Samantha Peszek won the balance beam title with a routine that included a standing back full, a first in NCAA competition.
Last Year at NCAAs
UCLA placed fourth at last year’s NCAA Championships, held in Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins qualified for the Team Finals by tying for second with Oklahoma with a score of 197.2 in a tough semifinal session. In the Super Six, UCLA led after two rotations, scoring 49.375 on bars and 49.175 on beam, but other teams caught up with the Bruins in the third rotation as they sat on a bye. UCLA remained in contention, however, after scoring 49.45 on floor, but the Bruins could not replicate the magic of the previous night on vault, scoring just 49.1 to finish with 197.1. Despite counting a fall on beam, Florida won its first title, thanks in large part to a NCAA-record 49.725 score on floor.
NCAA Championship Notes
*Only five teams have ever won the NCAA title in the 32 years of the Championships - Georgia (10), Utah (9), UCLA (6), Alabama (6) and Florida (1). For the first 15 years of the Championship, only Utah, Georgia and Alabama had ever won the team title. UCLA broke the stranglehold in 1997. It took 16 years for another new team - Florida in 2013 - to win a title.
*Ten schools return from the 2013 NCAA Championships, including all six Super Six teams. Returning teams are Florida (1st place), Oklahoma (2nd), Alabama (3rd), UCLA (4th), LSU (5th), Georgia (6th), Michigan (7th), Utah (9th), Illinois (11th) and Stanford (12th). Nebraska is back after a one-year absence, and Penn State is making its first appearance since 2009. Absent from last year’s field are Minnesota (8th) and Arkansas (10th).
*No. 12 Oregon State was the only Top 12 team that did not qualify for the NCAA Championships.
*UCLA ranks second among all schools with 31 individual titles. Georgia leads all teams with 40. Alabama and Utah are tied for third with 24.
*UCLA has won either a team or an individual NCAA title in 12 of the last 15 years.
*This is the fifth time the NCAA Championships have come to the state of Alabama. The Crimson Tide won the first three, all held in Tuscaloosa (1991, 1996, 2003), and Georgia won the fourth, held in Auburn.
*UCLA won three individual titles at the last NCAA Championships in Alabama, with Tasha Schwikert winning the all-around and Kristen Maloney winning vault and beam in 2005.
UCLA vs. the 2014 Field
The Bruins have matched up against four of the 11 other teams in the NCAA field this season, including Utah four times. UCLA lost the season opener to Florida by a slim margin of .025, went 1-3 against Utah, 1-1 against Stanford and 0-1 against Michigan.
Bruins Edge Razorbacks for NCAA Spot
UCLA advanced to the NCAA Championships for the 30th time in program history after a second-place finish at the NCAA Fayetteville Regional. The Bruins scored 196.6 to outscore host Arkansas, which scored 196.375. Utah placed first with 197.3. UCLA started the meet on fire, scoring a season-high 49.525 on floor exercise. The Bruins lost some momentum on their next two events, with low marks on vault and bars, but with advancement on the line, the beam team came through with a clutch 49.2 performance to clinch the NCAA berth. Samantha Peszek had an outstanding meet, winning the all-around with a career-high-tying 39.7 and winning bars and beam with scores of 9.95. Olivia Courtney also had a strong meet, scoring 39.475 in the all-around and winning floor with a 9.95.
In the Rankings
UCLA finished the regular season ranked No. 8 in the nation with a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) of 197.005. RQS is determined by taking the top six scores, three of which must be on the road, dropping the high score and averaging the remaining five marks. The Bruins are ranked No. 6 on bars (49.380) and beam (49.240), No. 7 on floor (49.400) and No. 12 on vault (49.305). Five Bruin gymnasts are ranked - Olivia Courtney (No. 15 on vault), Samantha Peszek (No. 5 on beam, No. 12 on bars), Sophina DeJesus (No. 13 on bars), Danusia Francis (No. 4 on beam), and Sydney Sawa (No. 8 on floor).
UCLA seniors Olivia Courtney, Sydney Sawa and Samantha Peszek have undoubtedly been the team leaders this season. The trio have combined for 41 of UCLA’s 53 individual wins, with Peszek winning 17, Courtney 15 and Sawa nine. They are also setting the pace in 9.9+ scores, with Courtney totaling 21, Peszek 20 and Sawa 16. Peszek has a 10.0 on bars, Sawa has a 10.0 on floor, and Courtney has a 9.975 on vault.
Courtney is a nine-time All-American who has won four Pac-12 individual titles and two NCAA Regional all-around titles. She has career-best marks of 9.9 or better on all four events, including 9.975 on vault and 9.95 on floor. Sawa earned All-America honors on floor exercise in 2014 and 2011 and holds career-high marks of 9.9 or better on all four events, including 10.0 on floor and 9.95 on vault. Peszek is a six-time All-American, 2011 NCAA beam champion and 2014 Pac-12 beam champion. Her career-bests are 9.95 or better on all four events, including a 10.0 on bars, set Feb. 8, and she is currently averaging over 9.9 on bars and beam.
Francis Joins Perfect 10 Club
Danusia Francis became the third Bruin this year and 26th overall at UCLA to join the perfect 10 club. Francis scored her first career perfect 10 on beam on Mar. 16 in a tri-meet with Utah State and Bowling Green. It was just the eighth in school history on beam and the first since Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs scored a 10 at Georgia in 2010.
Also scoring their first career perfect 10s this season have been Samantha Peszek and Sydney Sawa. Peszek scored UCLA’s 20th perfect 10 on uneven bars on Feb. 8 vs. Arizona State. Sawa followed suit two weeks later, scoring a 10 on floor exercise vs. Stanford on Feb. 22. Sawa’s 10 was the 38th on floor in school history. UCLA now has a total of 103 perfect 10s. UCLA’s three perfect 10 scorers are the most from any one school this season.
Three other Bruins have flirted with perfection this year, earning a 10 from one of two judges on a routine: Olivia Courtney on vault (9.975 on Jan. 11) and floor (9.95 on Apr. 5), Sophina DeJesus on bars (9.975 on Feb. 8), and Angi Cipra on floor (9.95 on Jan. 19). Peszek also received a 10 from one of four judges on beam at Pac-12 Championships (9.925) and a 10 from one of four judges on bars at NCAA Regionals (9.95).
Peszek Back in All-Around
Back in the all-around for the first time since the 2012 NCAA Championships, Samantha Peszek is averaging 39.619 in four meets, with career-highs of 39.7 set twice. In her all-around season debut against Michigan and Utah Mar. 7, she scored a then-career-best 39.65 to place first. A week later, she bested that mark with a meet-winning 39.7 against Utah State and Bowling Green. She scored 39.425 and placed second at the Pac-12 Championships on Mar. 22 and then won NCAA Fayetteville Regional with another 39.7.
Peszek missed the 2013 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon and had been limited in competition earlier in the year due to a stress reaction in her heel. She has only done floor exercise the last four meets, scoring 9.925 twice.
Francis Makes History with Beam Dismount
Sophomore Danusia Francis achieved a gymnastics first this season, becoming the first gymnast to do a sideways side aerial into a layout full dismount off the side of the beam. The difficult and innovative combo led her to first-team Regular Season All-America status and her first career perfect 10 on Mar. 16. Last season at the NCAA Event Finals, Francis became the first collegiate gymnast to do a sideways side aerial on beam.
Two Bruin regulars have perfect marks with hit routines, with Samantha Peszek going 30-for-30 with no score under 9.775, and Danusia Francis hitting 26-for-26 (and 57-for-57 over her two years). Also right up there is Olivia Courtney, who has hit 40 of 41 routines this year and over 96% of her routines throughout her career, and Hallie Mossett, who has hit 38 out of 40 routines without a fall.
DeJesus Raising the Bar
Sophomore Sophina DeJesus has become a force on uneven bars this season, earning second-team Regular Season All-America honors and earning five scores of 9.9 or higher while averaging 9.842 on the year. DeJesus scored a season-high of 9.975 set Feb. 8 vs. Arizona State, helping the Bruins record a season-high team total of 49.525, which was UCLA’s highest bars score in four years. DeJesus has also contributed high marks on beam, scoring 9.85 or better four times, including a career-best 9.9 on Feb. 22 against Stanford.
Bynum Brings It
Sadiqua Bynum has transformed in 2014, bringing huge vaults and powerful tumbling on floor. She has posted career-high marks of 9.925 on vault and 9.9 on floor. She is averaging 9.800 on both vault and floor, with three 9.9+ scores on each apparatus. A year ago, she was not in the vault lineup, and she averaged 9.564 on floor.
Freshmen Flourishing as Leadoffs
A pair of freshmen have been setting the tone nicely for the Bruins in leadoff roles.
Hallie Mossett has been an invaluable leadoff competitor on balance beam the last six meets. Not coincidentally, UCLA’s Top 3 beam scores (49.525, 49.375, 49.3 twice) came as soon as she began competing in the leadoff spot Feb. 22. She is averaging 9.825 in her six meets as the leadoff beam worker. Prior to this season, Mossett had missed two years of competition due to injuries. She had two hip surgeries related to a car accident and then tore her ACL during her senior year of high school. Mossett, who has two all-around wins in five attempts and a season-high of 39.425, twice earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors this season.
Since permanently moving into the leadoff position on floor Mar. 1, Jennifer Pinches has led the Bruins to its top two scores of the year (49.525 at Regionals and 49.5 at Arizona). She is averaging 9.84 in these last five meets, with a high of 9.875 set at Michigan. Pinches has also been the leadoff on vault since the Cal meet on Jan. 31 and has contributed to the Bruins’ top two vault scores of the season (49.475 at Michigan and 49.4 vs. Stanford).
Like Mossett, Pinches had been out of competition for some time. After competing in the 2012 Olympics in her home country of England, she retired from gymnastics but decided to return to the sport after UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field recruited her in 2013. Pinches signed with UCLA in August and came to Westwood a month later for preseason training. A broken toe had prevented her from training fully, but she made her collegiate debut on Jan. 19 and has competed on at least two events in every meet since Feb. 16.
Each week during the season, Samantha Peszek hosts an episode of Bruin Banter on uclabruins.com. The show, in its second season, features an interview with a member of the UCLA team. This past week’s guest was Jennifer Pinches.