UCLA’s Jordan Chiles posts nation’s highest all-around gymnastics score this season
As judges conferred on a teammate’s score, UCLA’s Jordan Chiles was stuck to wait before a nerve-racking beam routine. She passed the time the only way a UCLA gymnast would know how.
Chiles started clapping to the background music, extending her arms over her head on the beat. It didn’t take long for the packed crowd at Pauley Pavilion to join in.
After conquering the elite world, winning Olympic and world medals, Chiles is dominating the college ranks with an effortless, contagious joy that pushed her to the top of the country’s all-around charts Saturday.
The Olympic silver medalist’s career-high 39.9 all-around score powered UCLA to a season-best 198.275 in its win over Iowa State (195.55) in Saturday’s regular-season finale at Pauley Pavilion. The No. 5 Bruins have scored better than 198 in consecutive meets for the first time since 2019 and recorded the sixth-highest team score in program history.
Chiles tied Jamie Dantzscher for the second-highest all-around score at UCLA and has improved her career best in three consecutive meets. When Chiles was announced as the season’s top all-around scorer after the meet, the sophomore dabbed her eyes before waving to the crowd and blowing kisses into the stands.
“Being able to know that I did get a 39.9 is an amazing thing,” Chiles said. “People have been asking this year, are we going to get a 40 this year, are we going to get a 40? But obviously I’m climbing to that point.”
After competing all-around every meet this season, Chiles was supposed to rest on some events Saturday. But she felt in her gut that the team was on track for a big score. She approached coach Janelle McDonald to claim to her lineup spot, and McDonald relented.
“She works really hard, she’s really intentional in the gym about doing what she needs to do to keep pushing forward and keep building, so I’m not surprised at all when she comes out here so confident,” McDonald said. “Bottom line is she’s feeling great, she’s working hard and I wanted to give her the opportunity to do that if she felt ready to.”
Chiles, who will defer her studies at UCLA for next year while she trains for the Paris Olympics, has competed a team-high 40 routines this season. Only five scored below 9.9 and 15 in a row have been 9.925 or better, including two consecutive 10s on bars.
Chiles isn’t just setting the tone for the Bruins with her scores. The Vancouver, Wash., native leads the home crowd in dances during breaks between events and gives pep talks to teammates before they compete.
Before Margzetta Frazier stepped on the floor for her routine, Chiles reminded the fifth-year senior competing for the final time in a regular-season home meet to simply breathe. Chiles promised to help Frazier through every step of her floor routine by running to meet her in every corner after each tumbling pass. Chiles didn’t care that she was competing next.
Frazier hit her floor routine for a 9.9, stretching her streak of consecutive hit routines to 119 across five years. She was one of five seniors honored after the meet with Kalyany Steele, Chloe Lashbrooke, Emma Andres and Paige Hogan.
Steele competed on bars, scoring a 9.875, and Lashbrooke’s 9.875 on floor counted toward UCLA’s final-event score. Andres had season debuts on beam and floor in exhibition routines.
Frazier tried to hold back tears as she hugged coaches after the meet. She was honored as a senior last year but did not compete because of a broken foot. Her five-year career has spanned three coaching tenures, Frazier joining the Bruins when they were a national power, sticking through the rocky transition from Valorie Kondos Field to Chris Waller, and now celebrating the program’s rise back to the national stage under McDonald.
“We’re playing no games at this point,” Frazier said. “We do have a lot of fun and dance around, but Janelle’s got us working in the gym.”
As the end of her career approaches, Frazier didn’t claim to be passing a torch of leadership to her younger teammates. All of the gymnasts are leaders.
“It’s really not a torch to hand off,” the 2021 Pac-12 bars champion said. “It’s more laying the foundation thicker and thicker every year so that we have no cracks.
“Any torch I want to hand off,” Frazier added, “is wear your lip gloss.”
Before Chiles and Frazier began their press conference after the meet, the senior passed a tube of lip gloss to Chiles.