Monday, May 27

Podium meet offers welcome challenge for UCLA gymanstics

Sophomore Felicia Hano hit a Yurchenko 1.5 vault for a score of 9.825 and added a 9.875 on floor in UCLA's season opener against Ohio State on Saturday. (Kristie-Valerie Hoang/Assistant Photo editor)

Sophomore Felicia Hano hit a Yurchenko 1.5 vault for a score of 9.825 and added a 9.875 on floor in UCLA's season opener against Ohio State on Saturday. (Kristie-Valerie Hoang/Assistant Photo editor)

The Bruins will face a new challenge this week: a platform meet in the regular season.

No. 4 UCLA gymnastics (1-0) will take on Pac-12 rivals Stanford, No. 2 Utah (1-0) and Washington for an early season Elevate the Stage meet Sunday in Reno, Nevada.

After earning a win in Westwood against Ohio State, UCLA gets its first look at three conference opponents, all of whom it will meet again in dual meets before the postseason begins. Sophomore Kyla Ross led the Bruins to a win over the Buckeyes with an all-around score of 39.500.

This weekend is also the Bruins’ first podium meet ever in the regular season, as podium is something the Bruins have previously seen only in the NCAA championships. Coach Valorie Kondos Field emphasized the importance of competing on podium during the regular season.

“It really affects floor the most because you’re basically on a podium, not a trampoline, but a raised surface on a basketball court,” Kondos Field said. “It is very different for some of the athletes depending on what tumbling pass they do. … This is great that we get to go up there and not only have a meet on podium but have a training day on podium.”

Sophomore Gracie Kramer is coming off a 9.9 on the floor routine that tied her for first place Sunday. While she scored high on floor last week, she recognized that the team had nerves and was not at its best yet, as her stumble on vault dropped her to 12th in the event.

“This past meet made us realize that obviously nerves happen,” Kramer said. “In order to do as well as we want, we need to learn how to kind of tone that up and really eliminate the nerves so that we don’t make little mistakes that can add up.”

The Bruins will start on beam this weekend and end on the uneven bars. Sophomore Felicia Hano said she realizes the challenge of starting at beam but is ready for the task.

“I’m really excited to start on beam,” Hano said. “I think it’s gonna be a little bit challenging trying to calm our nerves but (Kondos Field) has prepared us really well and just let us know to be calm and be confident.”

The Bruins and the Utes have combined to win the last four Pac-12 titles and both competed in last year’s Super Six, with the Bruins placing fourth and the Utes finishing fifth. Kondos Field said she knows her team is better than it showed last week, but it needs to regain its confidence in order to come out on top again.

“They just need to get swagger now,” Kondos Field said. “They’ve changed their mental game, they’ve changed their physical game, they’ve gotten in shape. It’s the first time in years that we’re in really great athletic shape, and they need to honor that and respect it.”

Both schools have started in the top five this season. Utah finished with a 197.000 last week against BYU, while the Bruins scored a 196.250. However, UCLA was given the slight edge to come away with the conference title, according to a preseason poll of Pac-12 coaches. This first meet will give each team a shot to get a first look at its rival.

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Sports staff

Perez is currently a Sports staff writer on the beach volleyball and women's water polo beats. He was previously a reporter for the gymnastics and men's water polo beats.

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