St. Louis, Mo.Sixth-year senior Christine Peng-Peng Lee and junior Katelyn Ohashi became UCLA Gymnastics' newest NCAA champions, capturing individual event titles on balance beam and floor exercise, respectively. The championship titles were the first for each gymnast.
The Bruin duo had to wait all evening to find out if their meet-leading scores from the first semifinal would hold up. Lee's beam score of 9.9875 could only be surpassed by a perfect 10, but the closest anyone in the second semifinal would score was 9.9500. Ohashi's floor score of 9.9625 was matched by Oklahoma's Maggie Nichols, making them co-champions. UCLA sophomore Kyla Ross led in the all-around and on uneven bars after the first semifinal but was passed up in the second semifinal. She finished tied for second on beam, third on bars and fourth in the all-around. Ohashi also earned a podium finish on beam, tying for fourth place.
Lee, who entered the championships ranked No. 1 in the nation on balance beam, scored four perfect 10s this year on the event, including one to win her first-ever Pac-12 title. In the semifinals, she followed Ross' 9.9500 routine with a near-perfect one of her own, earning four perfect 10s from the six judges on her difficult routine that includes her Homma Flairs mount and a double turn-beat jump-split jump combo.
"I am so excited," Lee said. "I had not even made an event finals or been on the podium before. Honestly, I am just super happy … I was not even focusing on that, I focused on having fun and just performing. To have an NCAA title in my senior year going out is just icing on the cake."
Ohashi's floor exercise routine set to Michael Jackson music went viral earlier in the month, with over 60 million views worldwide. She backed up the hype and her No. 1 national ranking with a NCAA championship-winning routine highlighted by a double layout opening pass and a front handspring/front full/front half/split jump to the ground.
"It was so exciting," Ohashi said. "Unlike (Peng), I for sure thought about the title before I was going and when I was going. It was really cool. Last year, I was eighth on the podium, so we had quite the change."
With the victory, Lee became the fourth consecutive Bruin to win the NCAA balance beam title, joining Samantha Peszek (2015), Danusia Francis (2016) and Ross (2017). UCLA has won 10 beam titles in its history, the most among any school in the nation. Ohashi's floor win was also UCLA's 10th on the event but first since Brittani McCullough won in 2010. UCLA has captured a total of 38 individual championships, just four away from the all-time leader Georgia.
Other event winners included Nichols, who won the all-around title with a 39.8125 and a share of the uneven bars (10.0) and floor exercise (9.9625) titles; Utah's MyKayla Skinner, Oklahoma's Brenna Dowell and Florida's Alex McMurtry, who tied for first on vault with a 9.9375; and Stanford's Elizabeth Price, who scored a 10.0 along with Nichols to win uneven bars.
The Bruins will compete for the coveted NCAA team title on Saturday, Apr. 21 at 6pm CT/4pm PT. The six-time champions will begin the competition on a bye before floor exercise and will end on balance beam, their highest-scoring event in the semifinal. The Super Six team finals will be televised live on ESPNU and streamed on the WatchESPN app.