Salt Lake City, Utah - UCLA qualified to the NCAA Gymnastics Championships for the 32nd time after placing second at the NCAA Salt Lake Regional. The Bruins scored 196.375, finishing behind first-place Utah, which scored 197.125.
The Bruins had to dig deep in the final rotation to grab that qualifying spot, but the final three competitors on uneven bars came through in the clutch. Competing on bars for the first time in a year, Christine Peng-Peng Lee hit a meet-winning 9.95, and JaNay Honest and Sophina DeJesus delivered a 9.8 and 9.85, respectively, to secure second place.
UCLA began the meet on balance beam and hit 6-of-6 routines for a score of 49.050. All six Bruins scored 9.775 or higher, led by senior Danusia Francis, who scored 9.9. Sonya Meraz and Katelyn Ohashi contributed 9.8s, while Mikaela Gerber, Nicki Shapiro and DeJesus each scored 9.775. The Bruins ended the first rotation down .15 to Washington, who scored 49.2 on floor exercise.
After a bye in rotation two, the Bruins found themselves behind host Utah as well, after the Utes totaled 49.35 on uneven bars. Washington continued its hot streak, scoring 49.0 on vault, but the Bruins moved ahead after rotation three with a red-hot 49.4 on floor exercise. Ohashi led off with a 9.825, followed by a 9.8 from Madison Preston. Francis recorded her second-straight 9.9 score of the night, followed by a 9.875 from Honest and a 9.85 from Angi Cipra. Senior Sadiqua Bynum showed her first-team All-American form with a 9.95 to close the set.
Preston provided the highlight of the Bruins' vault rotation with a stuck Yurchenko layout full that scored a career-high-tying 9.9. Bynum's 9.85 and Honest and Meraz's 9.8s gave UCLA four 9.8+ scores, leading the Bruins to a team total of 49.125 and the temporary lead after three events with a score of 147.575.
Utah moved ahead of the idle Bruins in rotation five, scoring 49.3 on floor for a three-event total of 147.875, and Washington finished its meet with a 49.1 on beam and a final score of 195.825, which meant UCLA needed to score just 48.275 on bars to take one of the two NCAA spots.
Francis led off the final rotation with a solid leadoff score of 9.825, earning a 9.9 from one of the four judges. Then things got really interesting when Meraz went over on a handstand and had to hop down, scoring 8.975. Stella Savvidou nearly went over twice but kept swinging and finished with a 9.375. With the Bruins unable to afford another mistake, the final three came through with clutch routines. Lee's 9.95 debut was exquisite, and Honest showed tremendous fight in her routine, nearly overarching on a handstand but somehow managing to pull it back in for a crucial 9.8. The Bruins' NCAA fate was in DeJesus' hands, and the senior delivered with a 9.85 to clinch UCLA's spot at nationals with a 48.8 bars score.
Washington finished in third place with a 195.825. Illinois was fourth with a 195.350. Utah State placed fifth with 195.025, and Southern Utah was sixth with a 194.950.
Bruin gymnasts placed first on every event. Preston tied for first on vault with Utah's Kailah Delaney with a 9.9. Lee won bars outright with a 9.95. Francis and Washington's Allison Northey tied for first on beam with a 9.9, and Bynum and Illinois' Lizzy Leduc tied for first on floor with a 9.95. Utah's Breanna Hughes won the all-around with a 39.525. Northey and Southern Utah's Danielle Ramirez qualified for NCAA Championships as individual all-arounders.