The Bruins have begun their journey to defend their NCAA title.
No. 1 UCLA gymnastics (1-0) defeated No. 11 Nebraska (0-1), scoring 197.250 points to the Cornhuskers’ 195.700 in the Bruins’ season opener Friday. The meet at Pauley Pavilion marked the beginning of coach Valorie Kondos Field’s final season.
Despite the win, Kondos Field said that there was still much room for improvement.
“A 197.2 is great, normally,” Kondos Field said. “But for this team, it was good.”
The meet showcased seasoned returners senior Katelyn Ohashi and junior Olympic gold medalist Kyla Ross stepping into larger leadership roles on the team.
Ross – the first female gymnast to win an Olympic, world and NCAA championship – was the only Bruin to compete in all four events and posted the highest all-around score of the meet at 39.650. She also had the highest individual score of the night, recording a near perfect 9.975 on vault.
Ohashi scored a 9.900 on balance beam and debuted her new floor routine to garner a 9.950. As last year’s national floor co-champion, she did not disappoint the crowd despite only having finalized her routine about an hour before.
“We wanted to keep it behind closed doors for a while,” Ohashi said.“I was at home over Christmas break and (Kondos Field) was FaceTiming me like ‘OK, this is what we’re gonna do,’ changing everything. And then I got back and she was like, ‘OK, we’re restructuring it this way.’ (It was) exciting that I just got it down.”
After Ohashi’s floor routine last season garnered millions of views online, Kondos Field said her performance this year had much more riding on it.
“Every other time we had a routine go viral, they were seniors, so we didn’t have to find something to go back to top it,” Kondos Field said. “It’s ridiculous how much she does in that routine that she doesn’t have to do.”
Ross and junior Gracie Kramer both also scored 9.950 on floor exercise. Junior Felicia Hano posted a 9.900 on vault, while freshman Margzetta Frazier made her NCAA debut on the uneven bars, earning a 9.875. Freshman Norah Flatley also made an appearance on vault, uneven bars and balance beam to start her NCAA career.
Though the Cornhuskers only narrowly fell to the Bruins by just under two points, only one athlete had the highest score in an event – Taylor Houchin with a 9.925 on the uneven bars. The Bruins collectively swept Nebraska in every event.
Kondos Field attests UCLA’s expertise to the athletes’ dedication and self-motivation.
“It’s like (the) standard is up here, and they expect that from themselves and they expect it from each other,” Kondos Field said. “It’s really a blessing to coach teams like that, where you’re not trying to figure out how to get them appreciative and motivated every day.”