No. 5 UCLA gymnastics advanced to the national semifinals in St. Louis with the lowest score of the six regional champions. The other five scored above 197, while the Bruins posted a 196.8, far below the school’s regular season average of 197.121.
Regardless, the team felt like it had a good meet.
“We felt like we had a good meet and even though it wasn’t our best meet, we still felt that some of us were able to get the job done,” said redshirt senior Peng-Peng Lee. “Scoring is something we can’t control.”
Coach Valorie Kondos Field was pleased with how the team went for broke, instead of being uptight like it was during the Pac-12 championship, where it finished in third place.
“Quite often, when you have a team that plays tight, they come back and play tight in a different way to make up for that last meet,” Kondos Field said. “I was thrilled that they went big.”
The Bruins ultimately got the job done and will get another shot at a national title after finishing in fifth place in last year’s Super Six.
In less than 10 days, they will be competing in one of two six-team semifinal groups.
Kondos Field, despite the low overall score, said she believes the team can benefit from the challenges it faced during the regional competition, especially on vault. Vault has been UCLA’s second-lowest scoring event all season, with an average of 49.210 per meet.
“We did the highest vaults we’ve done all season at regionals,” Kondos Field said. “Now it’s (about) letting them do super high vaults and see the landing and dig in.”
The two weeks between regionals and the national semifinals not only allow the team to sharpen the little details that it’s missed in recent weeks but also ensures that everyone has time to recover from fatigue or injury.
One exception, though, is sophomore Katelyn Ohashi, who rolled her ankle Tuesday in training. The coaches are waiting for the prognosis and will be hoping that the injury is minor because Ohashi has been a top performer on the balance beam, collecting two perfect 10s this season.
Freshman Madison Kocian relishes the rest.
“Having more time between meets actually helps me, especially because I’ve done all-around pretty much every single meet except the last home meet,” Kocian said. “Everyone is pretty worn down.”
The goal for the next meet remains the same as it has for much of the latter half of the season – get another 198.
“We’re capable of getting another 198, and we’re still working toward that,” Kocian said. “We’re on the right track.”
Kondos Field is confident that her team is already prepared for the national championship fight.
“They’re ready,” Kondos Field said. “Right now, it’s more about fine tuning and keeping their minds sharp. They’re ready for nationals.”