No. 5 UCLA gymnastics needed one more victory to get to St. Louis, the site of the 2017 National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships.
Despite score-killing miscues on the balance beam to open the meet, the team navigated the tricky NCAA regional waters on Saturday, scoring a 196.800 and claiming a spot in national semifinals with a first-place finish.
“I feel that this is the most stressful meet of the year,” said coach Valorie Kondos Field. “I was happy with how they handled the mistakes we made. They didn’t let it bother them.”
Oregon State, which posted a 196.150, also advanced as the second-place team.
The margin of victory may have been comfortable, but the Bruins’ score was relatively low compared to most of their meets this season. During the team’s third-place finish at the Pac-12 championship, it scored higher – 197.100 – than it did to qualify for nationals.
Kondos Field, however, considered the result a positive one.
“We did well. We didn’t do great, which is fine,” Kondos Field said. “We didn’t stick a lot on vault or bar dismounts, but we came out as healthy as we came in. That’s really important this time of the year.”
Freshman Madison Kocian, who again was UCLA’s lone all-around competitor, had to adapt to the pacing and the stoppages before certain events while the Bruins waited for four of the teams to complete a rotation.
She turned in four clean events and claimed second in the all-around with a score of 39.375.
“It was my first time with the byes in between events,” Kocian said. “I just tried to stay dialed in when it was my turn but have fun outside of that, and I really felt the energy at this competition was very fun.”
Kocian also said she did not feel any added pressure in the regional meet despite the season being on the line, a sentiment shared by fellow freshman Kyla Ross.
Kocian and Ross came up with two of the Bruins’ first big scores of the night on bars with a 9.95 and 9.9, respectively.
“I feel just starting off on bars with that amount of energy helped carry us through the meet,” Ross said.
With its place in St. Louis secure, the team now has almost two weeks to hammer down its routines for the national semifinal.
“It was a stepping stone (to get to nationals),” Ross said. “We’re going to keep working hard these next few weeks to get ready for nationals.”