Last year, UCLA gymnastics pushed through the national semifinals to reach the Super Six, where the team finished in fifth place.
Now, the Bruins are again one step away from returning to the Super Six and coach Valorie Kondos Field believes her team’s training sessions in preparation for the trip to St. Louis had championship-level quality.
“These practices have been the best we’ve had in years,” Kondos Field said. “We had an intrasquad on Saturday and Sunday, and they were just electrified. If we compete like we did on Saturday, we could win a national championship.”
No. 5 UCLA heads into a semifinal group spearheaded by defending national champion No. 1 Oklahoma, which won the lone matchup between the two schools at the beginning of the season.
Three other Pac-12 schools – Utah, Washington and Oregon State – are in the group, as is the University of Denver.
According to redshirt freshman Macy Toronjo, the team is not paying attention to their competitors.
“When you get to this point in the game, you stop worrying about what other teams are doing and you just have to concentrate on yourself,” Toronjo said. “It can actually hurt you if you start thinking about the other teams and how they’re performing. The strong thing is to block out any distractions.”
To advance to the Super Six, the Bruins need to finish in the top three of the six-team semifinal group.
Kondos Field recognized the need for the team to be on their game, especially on vault – its weakest event.
“It’s a matter of mathematics,” Kondos Field said. “There are teams like LSU and Oklahoma that have five or six 10.0 vaults. That automatically gives them an edge. If we’re doing 9.95 start values, we need to be close to perfect.”
Sophomore Katelyn Ohashi’s ankle injury, however, remains a possible point of concern. Ohashi has been a consistent big scorer on floor exercise and balance beam, where she collected two perfect scores this season.
Regardless, the Bruins’ success in training leading up to the semifinal meet has them feeling good about their chances.
“We’ve definitely gotten into our groove,” said senior Hallie Mossett. “We compete and get through workouts calmly and normally. I think we’ve only gotten better with the past week and a half.”
UCLA’s first rotation in the meet will be a bye before they start competing on the uneven bars, giving the team more time to get ready.
“It’s nice to start on a bye because you don’t have to get revved up and go,” Kondos Field said. “After march-in, you go back to the locker room and you can chill out a little bit and get yourself in the right place for bars.”