Tuesday, April 24

UCLA gymnastics heads to Super Six after standout semifinal routines


Kyla Ross finished her first NCAA championship with top scores on uneven bars and balance beam in the first semifinal. The freshman also took second in the all-around behind Utah freshman MyKayla Skinner. (Angie Wang/Daily Bruin)

Kyla Ross finished her first NCAA championship with top scores on uneven bars and balance beam in the first semifinal. The freshman also took second in the all-around behind Utah freshman MyKayla Skinner. (Angie Wang/Daily Bruin)


This post was updated April 14 at 10 p.m.

ST. LOUIS — Even the always-dancing coach Valorie Kondos Field felt it when her team went to balance beam.

Watching the high-level gymnastics at Chaifetz Arena was offset by nervousness in competing alongside five of the nation's top 12 teams for three spots in the NCAA Super Six.

"I wanted to vomit," Kondos Field said.

She didn't have to be nervous for long though.

Behind six 9.0-plus scores, UCLA gymnastics (10-3, 5-1 Pac-12) clinched a spot in Saturday night's meet after taking second place with a 197.500 in the first semifinal Friday afternoon.

The Bruins, who started the meet on a bye, opened up on their best event – uneven bars.

Propelled by multiple sticks and nailed handstands, UCLA ended with a first rotation-high 49.3625, just .0125 ahead of reigning NCAA champions Oklahoma.

Freshman Kyla Ross led the way with a 9.950, tying for first with the Sooners' Maggie Nichols and Nicole Lehrmann.

"Coming in strong and starting off (on bars) really built the momentum for me," Ross said. "Then being put in on floor was exciting because that was one of the few times I’ve been put in on floor this year.”

Before coming in on floor though, Ross put up another big score for the Bruins on balance beam, earning two 10s to finish with a meet-high 9.9625.

But it was fellow freshman Madison Kocian who had a momentum-swinging routine on beam for her team.

Kocian stepped up for her routine and was saluting the judges when she saw senior Hallie Mossett's score: a 9.2 after the senior fell on one of her flight series.

"It kind of gets into your head," Kocian said. "But you just have to push it aside and say 'I'm just gonna do this for my team and for myself,'" and it was a crucial spot trying to bring the team back from that."

The Rio Olympian scored a 9.8625 on beam in her first NCAA championship as the Bruins finished the rotation with another 49.3625 and the overall lead halfway through the meet.

On floor, three different gymnasts, including Kocian, built on the momentum and scored higher than a 9.90.

Mossett bounced back from her fall on beam to anchor the Bruins with a 9.925 on her Beyoncé-inspired routine.

"Hallie is not healthy – her hip is horrible," Kondos Field said. "But she goes out and goes 'I can do it, I got it' and it's just fun."

Fellow senior Angi Cipra also had a 9.925 on her iPhone routine, a season high after missing the first four meets of the season with a foot sprain.

Three other floor routines from Ross, sophomore Katelyn Ohashi and redshirt freshman Macy Toronjo scored above a 9.825 to help the Bruins cap off their third event with their highest rotation score of the night – a 49.5375.

Ross, who had a season-high 9.825 on just her third floor routine of the season, finished the meet second in the all-around behind Utah's MyKayla Skinner after scoring a 9.8375 on vault in the last rotation.

Vault, the Bruins' final rotation, was their weakest event of the meet, with no gymnast scoring above Kocian's 9.8750.

Freshman Felicia Hano had a career-high 9.8625 in her only event of the night, but teammate Madison Preston couldn't find her feet on the landing, scoring a 9.150.

Even with a 49.2375 team score on vault, it was more than enough for UCLA's second straight berth in the Super Six.

Oklahoma, whom Sooners coach K.J. Kindler said was jittery to open the afternoon, settled down in the second half to total 197.7250.

The reigning NCAA champions scored a 49.500 and 49.5250 on their final two events even with Nichols' fall on the balance beam.

Utah also struggled on their opening events before regrouping in the final rotations. The Utes opened up with the Olympic order, but scored just a 49.0875 on both vault and uneven bars to sit in fifth halfway through the meet.

A 49.4875 and 49.3875 on floor exercise and balance beam respectively helped Utah edge conference rival Washington for the final spot in the Super Six.

UCLA, Oklahoma and Utah were joined by LSU, Alabama and Florida after the second semifinal Saturday night.

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