Coach Valorie Kondos Field realized her team’s mentality needed to change in order to reclaim the title at this year’s NCAA championship.
“The last two seasons, my staff and I get together after national championships, and say, ‘We have to do something different,’” Kondos Field said. “We got real with them about getting as physically fit as you can get. You’ve got to find the magic sauce within each team. And they did it.”
UCLA gymnastics (37-2, 4-1 Pac-12) finished the season as NCAA and Pac-12 champions, a feat that hasn’t happened since 2010. Kondos Field has now led the Bruins to seven national and 14 Pac-12 titles since taking over the head coaching spot in 1991.
The Bruins had an undefeated record on the road or at a neutral site this season, including wins over No. 5 Utah (23-11, 5-1), No. 2 LSU (33-5, 7-0 SEC) and No. 7 Nebraska (27-15, 6-3 Big Ten).
The Bruins combined for 12 perfect 10.0 scores on the season, led by seven from redshirt senior Christine Peng-Peng Lee. Junior Katelyn Ohashi added three, and sophomores Kyla Ross and Felicia Hano both contributed one.
Ross said the team was confident from the beginning of the season that they would end as champions.
“From day one this year, we knew we had something special,” Ross said. “From the way the freshmen came in to the way the seniors led. We all trust each other.”
The gymnasts only lost in Pauley Pavilion this season, falling in a pair of close meets to top-three teams in February against the Utes and No. 1 Oklahoma (28-2, 3-0 Big 12). The Bruins had a combined deficit of .225 over the two competitions. Kondos Field said facing teams like the Sooners raised her team’s intensity and performance.
“We have so much respect for their coaching staff, for their athletes. They reek class and commitment to excellence,” Kondos Field said. “Oklahoma has made us better.”
The main obstacle the Bruins will face next season is replacing key seniors who were instrumental to the team’s success this year. Lee scored two perfect 10.0 scores in the finals to anchor the Bruins, including the final routine on the balance beam that clinched the championship. Seniors Napualani Hall and JaNay Honest both competed in every meet this season, with Hall specializing on the vault and Honest on the uneven bars.
Lee said she will never forget this team and finishing her UCLA career on top.
“To see all my teammates who work so hard in the gym, to get the scores they deserve – I’m just so proud of everyone,” Lee said. “I applaud the senior class for doing an amazing leadership job. ”