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UCLA gymnastics downs Arizona State for first home victory

LOS ANGELES — Jordan Chiles makes her own rules. She brings fans into the competition area for photos and autographs, runs to the sideline to conduct the band and sits in the audience, just for some examples.

Her rebellious act of choice on Saturday was permitted by a 10.00 on floor exercise — her first perfect score of the season. She collapsed to the floor with emotion when the result was announced, then ran up the steps of Pauley Pavilion to hug her mom.

“I wasn’t even allowed to run up into the stands, but I always break rules in this arena,” Chiles said. “Having her in the audience and being able to get a 10 all in the same moment was something I always dreamed of.”

Chiles’ mom, Gina, was in federal prison for the duration of last season, according to reports, and was unable to attend any of the meets during her daughter’s freshman year at UCLA.

This season, Chiles says her mom has been to every single meet so far. And on Saturday, in addition to witnessing the Bruins’ first home win of the season, she got to see Chiles score a 10.00 and tie for the highest all-around score in the country with a 39.925.

“She has put in so much work to get out here and just dialing into the level of routines that she has,” coach Janelle McDonald said. “It’s just really impressive, coming out every week and performing really difficult gymnastics.”

UCLA reached season-high team scores in two events as it went on to beat Arizona State 197.800-196.900.

Arizona was in the lead after the first event. UCLA only registered one score above 9.900 in vault to start, but scored a season-high 49.575 in uneven bars to get ahead.

Ana Padurariu and Margzetta Frazier both earned season-highs in bars with both scoring 9.900. Jordan Chiles scored a 9.975 with a 10.00 from one judge to win the event.

“This week in the gym we focused a lot on detail work and dialed into body position, shape, strong arms, good landings and I felt like today we really showed that in three out of four events,” McDonald said.

All UCLA gymnasts reached 9.850 or above on balance beam, with Selena Harris’ 9.950 winning the event.

The coaching staff removed an aerial from her routine and added a front toss ahead of the meet. The change gave Harris, who is coming off her fifth straight Pac-12 Freshman/Newcomer of the Week award, a better mindset.

“I just love beam,” Harris said. “(The aerial) was kind of straining my hip flexor, that’s why I was taped last meet. Now I feel a lot more confident to go anywhere in the lineup.”

The Bruins wrapped up the evening with a 49.675 on floor, another season-high. UCLA went 1-2-3 in the event with Chiles in first, Margzetta Frazier (9.950) second and Chae Campbell (9.925), who missed last week’s meet due to a family emergency, in third.

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Chiles’ floor routine choreography and music has a 90s theme. The Olympic and World medalist said she’s drawn to 90s hip-hop’s ability to transform emotion into musical art and also wanted to include female artists like TLC and Salt-N-Pepa.

“That’s what all my routines are about, is empowerment,” Chiles said. “Being able to embrace that and put that out into the world in my gymnastics and the artistic side of things is really cool. I want everybody to know that there’s more to the world.”

Chiles said that she’s received emotional messages from people who have been touched by her floor routines. Her reach goes across social media but also has a home within the confines of Pauley Pavilion with every high-five with a fan.

She danced so much in between events and routines on Saturday that the transition to floor exercise was authentic. Chiles seemed to run the world within Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, and it was encouraged.

“I like competing, but I don’t like how everyone always has to be in the zone,” she said. “I get it, we’re at a competition, but for me to have fun, I just do spontaneous things. I feel like it gives me energy. We’re here, and we’re having fun.”

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