In this weekend’s meet at Arizona State – UCLA gymnastics’ first road test of the season – the venue wasn’t the only thing that was different for the Bruins.
Coach Valorie Kondos Field took the opportunity of a meet against the unranked Sun Devils , which the No. 4 Bruins won 196.375-195.600, to switch up the lineup and try athletes in different events.
“It was a challenge because we did rotate some athletes out and brought some other athletes in,” Kondos Field said. “Whenever you do that, it’s a little nerve-wracking because you get out of the rhythm. You don’t know what they’re going to do.”
The experiment worked well for the Bruins, who saw strong performances from several lesser-known gymnasts.
All six of the UCLA competitors on vault scored 9.8 or higher, including senior Alyssa Pritchett who had not competed on vault since 2010. The Bruins claimed the top-six finishes in that event en route to attaining a season-high team score.
“There were little highlights all over the place tonight,” Kondos Field said after the meet. “They really enjoy competing, and it’s contagious. Energy permeates through the rest of the team.“
Among the athletes who took the opportunity to shine was freshman Sophina DeJesus, who tied for first on beam and also tied for second on both floor and uneven bars in her first away meet as a Bruin.
Although DeJesus said the experience of competing without a supportive home crowd was different, she also said the atmosphere has no impact on the team’s attitude – or its performance.
“When we hit the competition floor we just think about having fun,” she said. “I just … try to stay calm and confident and relax and have fun. I have a little bit of nerves but in the end it helps me, they make me even better.”
For the team’s more experienced members, the change of pace offered a much-needed rest, as well as an opportunity to assess the team’s strengths and weaknesses.
“It was great to see where we are as team … and it was good to have other girls get experience so that come nationals, everyone will have a good amount of experience,” said senior Vanessa Zamarripa. “Plus, it gave me a little bit of a rest. It’s good to have a little downtime – it’s a long season.”
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