Two Olympic gold medalists, a former USA national team member and multiple Level 10 standouts.
That’s just part of the UCLA gymnastics freshmen class.
The fourth-ranked defending Pac-12 champions, coming off a fifth-place finish at last year’s NCAA championship, will usher in their fresh talent beginning Saturday against No. 17 Arkansas in Pauley Pavilion.
The Bruins have six top-20 schools on their schedule, highlighted by a Jan. 15 meet at No. 1 Oklahoma, the defending national champions. And unlike last year, when injuries handicapped UCLA’s roster throughout the season, this year’s theme may well be a changing of the guard.
Gold medalists Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian are the two most notable freshmen, but the other Bruin freshmen also bring a bounty of national experience. Felicia Hano is a former national team member and Anna and Grace Glenn are twins who have both won Level 10 state championships – the highest level of competition in the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics program.
They’ll join a UCLA squad with two returning All-Americans in senior Angi Cipra and redshirt senior Christine Peng-Peng Lee. Combined with sophomores Katelyn Ohashi, who was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week four times despite missing four weeks because of a sternum injury, and Madison Preston – last year’s NCAA Regional vault co-champion, the Bruins feature a deep, formidable lineup.
UCLA, on the other hand, will have to replace Sadiqua Bynum, Sophina DeJesus and Danusia Francis, who all graduated following last season. All together, the three earned 12 All-American honors on floor exercise, uneven bars and balance beam.
Within the Pac-12, the Bruins will likely face their toughest competition against the No. 6 Utah Utes. In the conference’s preseason coaches poll, UCLA was selected as the favorite to repeat as champions with five first-place votes and 47 points – Utah followed right behind with three first-place votes and 45 points.
Nationally, the Bruins also received five first-place votes in the coaches poll, extending their streak of reaching every preseason top 10 since rankings started in 1998, while Cal, Stanford, Oregon State, Arizona and Washington were also ranked in the top 20.
UCLA remains tied for third all-time with six NCAA championships, with its most recent coming in 2010.