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Gymnastics working to improve under new coach following season-opener

Junior Kendal Poston notched a meet-high 9.900 on vault for UCLA gymnastics, winning her first-ever event. Later in the meet, Poston posted a 9.875 in an exhibition performance on the balance beam. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

By Riley Segal

January 15, 2020 12:57 am

Coach Chris Waller joked about his transition to head coach of the Bruins after Sunday’s meet.

“Oh, it’s so easy,” Waller said.

With each new season comes a new set of challenges, but for No. 5 UCLA gymnastics (1-0), the one that stands out the most this season is the change in head coach. Waller took over for Valorie Kondos Field, who coached the Bruins for 36 years before retiring at the end of the 2019 season.

“The transition was really hard, the whole process of hiring a new coach,” Waller said. “I know that those guys and the rest of the team supported me and believed in me, but the fact of the matter is that I’m not Miss Val. And while we share a lot of the same approaches and coached together for so long, I’m not her.”

Waller added that it took some time for the team to build trust and a mutual understanding between the coaches and the athletes. However, junior Kendal Poston said the mentality of the Bruins has not changed.

“I think that our overall mindset doesn’t really change too much: to compete with our whole heart, to leave nothing,” Poston said. “We don’t want any regrets so we always talk about giving our whole hearts to what we’re doing, and we want to leave, win or lose, feeling like we did everything we could.”

Against Boise State on Sunday, UCLA once again posted a sub-49 point score on the balance beam, a rotation marked by two falls, but also a near-perfect 10 from senior Grace Glenn. UCLA managed to score above 49 points on the other three events, going immediately from its below-average performance on beam to its highest score of the night on floor – a 49.725.

Though the meet yielded lower results than what the Bruins have earned in the past, Waller noted that there were both positives and negatives to take away from and that the team getting stronger throughout the season would be a process.

“It was so fun and it wasn’t a perfect meet – we had some ups and downs – but I can’t say enough about how much I respect the character of the individuals on this team and this team as a whole and the culture that we’ve built together,” Waller said. “We’re not in a place right now for us to be perfect, we’re in a place that’s early in the season and we’re figuring out how to get better in places. But for the team to show up on floor and just hit the reset button and just explode with confidence and put on a show like that, it says a lot about who this team is.”

One highlight that the meet yielded was senior Kyla Ross’ first perfect 10 of her final season with UCLA. The former Olympian, dubbed “Kyla Boss” by Bruin fans, is remaining positive under the coaching transition, continuing to be ingrained in the culture the program has built and that Waller was a part of shaping as an assistant – and now as head coach.

“Every time I go out and compete, I feel like I compete like it’s my last meet ever,” Ross said. “I’m going through the season just enjoying every moment of it and just competing with my full heart, everything.”

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Riley Segal | Sports reporter
Segal is currently a reporter on the gymnastics beat. She was previously a contributor on the women's volleyball beat.
Segal is currently a reporter on the gymnastics beat. She was previously a contributor on the women's volleyball beat.
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