By Julia Ingram
UCLA is a force to be reckoned with. Stacked with former Olympians Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian, the No. 3 Bruins are a well-rounded team with depth on every event, so it came as no surprise when they took home the win over Stanford on Monday night 197.575 – 196.2500.
Despite the loss, the Cardinal put up a good fight in their home opener, with their 196.2500 setting a new season high.
“We’re a team on the rise,” head coach Tabitha Yim said.
For the Cardinal, strength lies in beam and floor, which means their best routines come in the second half of the meet. On Monday, beam was Stanford’s highest scoring event (49.325), breaking 49 for the first time this year. Junior Kyla Bryant performed a near-perfect routine to tie her career best of 9.900, and freshman Chloe Widner scored a career-high 9.875.
“Chloe had a tough week last week, and I think it showed a lot of character for her to come back and just crush it,” Yim said. Widner faltered last week on bars, but performed a clean routine with a perfectly stuck landing in Monday’s meet.
Widner and Bryant were Stanford’s two all-arounders on Monday. Like Bryant did in her freshman season, Chloe entered her first year as an all-arounder.
“For a freshman to come in their first year and do all-around is pretty remarkable,” Yim said. “You don’t see that quite often, so that speaks to her worth ethic, her passion, and also her mental strength and resolve.”
Both Bryant and Widner fell behind UCLA’s Ross in the all-around, with Ross scoring within a tenth of a perfect score in all events except the beam, where she almost lost balance on one skill to bring her down to a 9.750. Bryant came just behind Ross’ 39.575 total with a 39.400.
Monday was a particularly successful day for junior Taylor Lawson, who scored career highs on both bars and beam with a 9.850 on each. Lawson has particularly difficult routines, and Yim said she has been focusing on perfecting the details. She added that Lawson’s performance was the most improved among the team.
On bars and vault, Yim said there’s “room for growth.” While bars can sometimes be a strong point for Stanford — Monday’s meet also saw a career-high of 9.825 from sophomore Wesley Stephenson — vault is a challenge, since the team performs a less difficult skill than most of its competitors. As of this point in the season, the maximum score each of Stanford’s gymnasts can attain on vault is a 9.950, rather than a 10.000.
“One of the things we really focused on is being aggressive and dynamic, as you can see everyone bounced back on their landings, so that’s something we really focused on,” Yim said. “We have a long term vision of growth in that event, and we feel like that will come together at the end of the year.”
Next up, the Cardinal will travel to face Oregon State on Sunday at 1 p.m. PST.