All eyes were on Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross – the two Olympic gold medalists about to make their collegiate debut.
And they delivered against Arkansas, with Kocian winning the all-around and three event titles and Ross coming away in a three-way tie for the top score on uneven bars.
[Related: Gold medalists lead UCLA into 2017 season]
But the meet wasn’t just about the two freshmen. It was about the other 19 gymnasts on the team – a mixture of freshmen who competed in their first meets and veterans who nursed pre-season injuries.
Thirteen different gymnasts competed for No. 4 UCLA (1-0), but noticeably absent were some of last year’s star athletes.
“You get these great athletes, these elites who come and they’re beat up from doing so many hours of gymnastics their whole life,” said coach Valorie Kondos Field.
Sophomore Katelyn Ohashi, who competed in all four events for the Bruins last year, has been nursing a sore shoulder according to the coaching staff.
Ohashi only appeared on the balance beam against Arkansas despite also wanting to compete on floor exercise.
Kondos Field expects Ohashi to reinsert herself in the other three events as the season goes on, but wants the sophomore to be aware of the long-term plan rather than the next meet.
“I’m not making decisions for Jan. 7, I’m making decisions for April.” Kondos Field said. “Katelyn was not happy with me, but I just had to explain to her – they’re gonna be upset, they’re gonna be ticked off. And then we’re gonna compete again.”
Also unavailable for the Bruins was Angi Cipra, whose iPhone routine last season was one of the constants on floor exercise.
The senior hurt her ankle and is not expected to be ready for competition for roughly three to four weeks according to Kondos Field.
Ross and Kocian have also been closely monitored by the coaching staff – Ross after injuring her tibia earlier this year in training and Kocian for any signs of fatigue, mental and physical.
But without the veterans at 100 percent, the coaching staff is still able to rely on the freshmen to anchor the team.
Four of the six athletes on vault, the best rotation of the night for UCLA, were freshmen.
“We’ve got a lot of, lot of, lot of depth,” Kondos Field said. “But I’m always thankful to get out as healthy as we come in. That means we did good gymnastics.”