This post was updated April 20 at 7:18 p.m.
FORT WORTH, Texas — Valorie Kondos Field couldn’t hold back tears.
In the final meet of the coach’s career, No. 2 UCLA gymnastics (9-1) took third in the NCAA championship Saturday. UCLA, which scored 197.5375, fell to No. 1 Oklahoma (10-0) and No. 3 LSU (8-3) but finished ahead of No. 4 Denver (3-1).
“I have internalized John Wooden’s definition of success and I reiterate that to the student-athletes every day,” Kondos Field said. “He doesn’t mention winning. Success is peace of mind in knowing you’ve done your best. I would never base our success solely on winning the national championship.”
The Bruins were in second place after their first rotation but fell into third after floor exercise.
They were never able to regain the lost ground.
“They competed hard until the end,” Kondos Field said. “I’ve been in a lot of championships and I know anything can happen. As we saw last year, anything can happen.”
UCLA scored 49.4250 on two events in the championship meet – and one came on their lowest-ranked event, vault. The other came on uneven bars, the Bruins’ final event of the night.
The Bruins scored 49.3875 on balance beam to start the night.
UCLA posted a season-low 49.3000 on floor, despite a 9.9500 from senior Katelyn Ohashi on her last-ever collegiate routine, tying her for first place on the event.
“We remember why we do it,” Ohashi said. “It’s not about winning, it’s not about first place, it’s about going out with no regrets. I think that’s exactly what we did. We fought until the very end and we remembered: It’s never over.”
Both the Sooners and Bruins finished their outings on events that they ranked No. 1 in the country on during the regular season. UCLA’s uneven bars score of 49.4250 was not enough to pull ahead, as Oklahoma posted a team score of 49.6250 on vault.
LSU posted a 49.5250 on its final event.
Junior Kyla Ross scored 9.9500s on both vault and uneven bars and finished with a third-place all-around score of 39.7375. She tied for first place on uneven bars.
“This is how we learned to compete,” Ross said. “It’s never over until it’s over. We had to keep pushing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t our best meet, but we put on our best face and finished the meet with joy, especially for Miss Val.”
Oklahoma scored 198.3375 – the second-highest score in NCAA championship history – to win the title. It was the Sooners’ third national title in four years and fourth in program history.
UCLA’s 197.5375 was its third-lowest score this season.
The Bruins danced with their coach in the uneven bars corral as the meet came to an end.
“I was thrilled that they were the ones starting the dancing,” Kondos Field said. “Because, life is short – don’t wait to dance.”