Valorie Kondos Field is preparing for her final meet in Pauley Pavilion.
“This is what it must have been like during coach John Wooden’s days,” the coach said.
Kondos Field, along with four seniors, will be saying goodbye to the Bruins’ home crowd this weekend.
No. 2 UCLA gymnastics (8-1, 7-0 Pac-12) will close out its regular season against Utah State (5-9, 0-6 MW) in Pauley Pavilion on Saturday. It will be the last home meet for seniors Katelyn Ohashi, Brielle Nguyen, Macy Toronjo and Stella Savvidou who will be sitting out the meet due to an injury. It’s also a goodbye for Kondos Field − who will be retiring after 37 years with UCLA Athletics and 29 years as a head coach.
“I know I’m going to be wearing waterproof mascara,” said junior gymnast Gracie Kramer. “I think that being supportive and being thankful for their time at UCLA is something that the team is going to focus on, not that negative pressure and sadness that goes along with it, because we still have to compete.”
The Aggies will roll into Pauley Pavilion riding a three-meet losing streak.
Utah State and UCLA share only one opponent this season − No. 17 Washington. The Bruins bested the Huskies 197.600 to 196.00 on Feb. 10, while the Aggies fell 195.025 to 196.750 on March 1.
Utah State’s Madison Ward-Sessions posted a 9.975 on her most recent floor performance. Ward-Sessions ranks 17th and averages a 9.900 on the event. Only two Bruins − junior Kyla Ross and Ohashi − have posted 9.975 or higher on floor this season.
The Bruins now rank first in one team event − floor exercise. No. 1 Oklahoma outranks UCLA by just .005 on both balance beam and uneven bars.
Ross ranks first as an individual on vault, uneven bars and all-around. Ohashi ranks first on floor and second on beam nationally.
“In the moment last week, I was pretty sad that I wasn’t doing floor because the energy in the crowd was so amazing,” Ross said. “I really wanted to perform, so I can’t wait to see that amazing crowd again this week and actually compete on floor in front of them.”
Saturday’s meet will be the final time Bruin fans will see Kondos Field in action.
Kondos Field began her UCLA career as an assistant coach and choreographer in 1983 and was appointed head coach in 1991. She has coached the Bruins to seven NCAA titles and has been named National Coach of the Year four times.
Kondos Field was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010 and was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Century in 2016.
“I know I am going to think, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the last time I’m driving to Pauley Pavillion, parking in Lot 7, the last time I’m walking into Pauley as the head coach,’” Kondos Field said. “Last, last, last, last, last. I think I have prepared enough that I am going to enjoy it because I am leaving with no regrets.”
A UCLA gymnastics attendance record was set last weekend when the Bruins defeated No. 23 Stanford at home. Kramer said she’s expecting another record-breaking crowd to pack Pauley Pavilion this Saturday as well.
“I’m surprised they didn’t take us to the Staple Center for this event,” Kramer said. “I’m surprised that they are not going to be rebuilding Pauley Pavilion. That’s how many people I think are going to try to come, and we are ready for them.”