It was as much a showcase as an invitational for the UCLA women's gymnastics team, No. 1 in the nation for only the second time ever and performing at home in front of a crowd of 6,152.
The Bruins did their part--and then some. Despite having injured star Tanya Service in only one event, they almost broke the 190-point barrier for the second time this season before settling for a four-event team and individual sweep and the title Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion in the UCLA/Los Angeles Times Invitational.
With Jill Andrews winning the vault and balance beam, and Kim Hamilton winning the floor exercise and uneven parallel bars, UCLA scored 189.20 points to outdistance Oregon State (185.70), Cal State Fullerton (184.35), Arizona State (183.65) and New Mexico (171.15). In addition, Andrews and Hamilton tied for the all-around title at 38.45.
It's only one meet, but after UCLA showed off depth despite youth and passed the first big test of the year, there was reason enough for some to talk about the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. championship.
"I saw Utah (a perennial power) last week. We lost to them by two-tenths of a point. I don't think there's any competition," Arizona State Coach John Spini said. "From what I saw tonight, UCLA is the best team I've ever seen in collegiate gymnastics. . . .
"I don't think anyone will get within two points of them at nationals."
Spini, whose Sun Devils came in as the country's fifth-ranked team, was serious. Then he deadpanned.
"It's really nice to have kids that would be on my first team on their bench," he said.
The scenario went according to script for the Bruins, who wanted to take advantage of the big crowd. In other words, they wanted to show off.
"Tonight, we wanted to make that person in the stands feel like we were performing just for them," said UCLA Coach Jerry Tomlinson, whose team finished third in the nation last season. "And that's what happened.
"My kids, a lot of them had parents who flew in from around the country just for this meet. They'd say, 'I can come to one meet this year, which one would you like it to be?' The invitational."
UCLA's next meet is Friday night against California and UC Santa Barbara at the Wooden Center. Things should quiet down some for that, but maybe not by much. When the Bruins opened the season Jan. 9 against Arizona at their smaller on-campus arena, they had a turn-away crowd.