Rivalries are the foundation of sports. It has been well documented that UCLA has an intense rivalry with the school across the city, USC.
UCLA gymnastics, however, has another rivalry with a bit more distance between them ““ 2,266 miles, to be exact. The University of Georgia has been one of UCLA’s top competitors for the past decade which has led to an intense and enjoyable rivalry.
The two schools have won a combined 16 NCAA championships in gymnastics. UCLA and Georgia own eight of the last nine titles; last year Alabama took the crown.
Today, the No. 3 Bruins (9-1-1) travel to Athens, Ga., to face the No. 4 Bulldogs (5-3) once more.
The Bruins are on a hot streak, with a nationwide season-high score of 198.050 last meet against Arizona State. With such an emotional high, it is important for the team to come back down to earth and focus on achieving that score again.
“We talked about the fact that while the score seemed stratospheric, it was actually just indicative of where we’re at right now in the season,” coach Valorie Kondos Field said.
“To score a 198, it takes a 9.9 average, and on any given day we have at least five athletes on each event that can score 9.9. This is why we say this score is just normal. I think we can attain this score every week.”
Even with the injuries and illnesses that have plagued the Bruins throughout the season, they continued to step their game up and maintain their composure in competition.
Freshman Mattie Larson is one of the athletes that was thrown into the competition and she has since become a staple in the UCLA lineup.
“Our team is so deep we can have so many different people enter the lineup,” Larson said. “It’s kind of an honor to make the lineup.”
Larson’s years of experience competing individually prior to coming to UCLA may have trained her to perform well under these circumstances.
“If our team wasn’t so talented, they’d need me on every weekend,” Larson said. “I don’t feel that pressure. I always try my best, but I know that if I don’t feel my best, someone else can come in and get just as high of a score.”
Road meets against teams like Georgia are always tough, but sophomore Olivia Courtney lives for the competition.
“Going into someone else’s home court is a disadvantage for the other team,” Courtney said. “But I love going to Georgia because their energy and intensity is all the way up. They take it to a whole different level.”
Now that UCLA has shown the world what scores it is capable of posting, the target on the team is even bigger than ever. The Bulldogs are pointing their arsenal right at the Bruins.