When UCLA gymnastics takes to the gym Sunday afternoon for the final meet of the regular season, it will do so without one of its young stars.
Freshman Madison Kocian is getting rested after a busy year which has seen her compete in the all-around competition at every meet except for one.
“Madison Kocian is not going to be competing,” said coach Valorie Kondos Field. “No other lineup changes, but that is a significant lineup change because who comes in. We’re going to have four opportunities open, and it’s really exciting when new people come in and compete.”
While Kocian may not be in the lineup for No. 4 UCLA (8-2, 5-1 Pac-12) against North Carolina (6-2, 3-0 East Atlantic Gymnastics League), optimism remains high on the team.
“We’re expecting to do really well,” said junior JaNay Honest.
Kondos Field gave the gymnasts two days off after their previous meet, during which they defeated California. She believes the team is ready to raise its game to close the season.
“I expect them to take it up a notch,” Kondos Field said. “I think our vaults are going to be bigger. I think they’re going to get super excited, and they’re going to stick some bar dismounts. I think we’re going to light it up on beam and floor.”
A part of that push to improve the Bruins’ vault score, which has consistently lagged behind the other three events in recent meets, is the integration of more 10 start-value vaults.
Last weekend, freshman Gracie Kramer attempted one, though a poor landing resulted in a low score.
On Sunday, UCLA will add another to the lineup. Junior Napualani Hall will attempt a 10 vault alongside Kramer.
“I anticipate us doing a few 10ths better on that event,” Kondos Field said.
The showdown against the Tar Heels is also senior day. The Bruins’ most veteran members compete in Pauley Pavilion for the final time.
“It’s really hard to fathom,” said senior Mikaela Gerber, UCLA’s leadoff on the balance beam. “I can’t quite compute that this is the last time I’m going to compete in Pauley. It’s been four years that I’ve been here, and my family is going to be here for the first time. They’re going to see me compete in Pauley for the very first time. That’s a really big deal to me. I’m so excited and really sad. It’s a whole mix of emotions.”
Kondos Field sees her latest senior class as a group that exemplifies diversity.
“They are the United Nations,” Kondos Field said. “They are so different from each other and they’re so unique and special in their own ways. It’s been really fun. From day one, they’ve been a very tight group, including (team manager) Alex Waller and (volunteer assistant coach) Jordyn Wieber.”