The official photo of the 2017 UCLA Women’s Gymnastics team. Courtesy of redo.me.uk
UCLA GYMNASTICS AT A GLANCE
* Pac-12 Conference Champions
* 2nd in NCAA Regionals
* Made the NCAA Super Six (akin to the Final Four in basketball), finishing 5th
Coach: Valorie Kondos Field, 27th year
* Voted Pac-12 Conference Gymnastics Coach of the Century in 2016
Current Record: 1-0, beating Arkansas 195.700 – 195.350 on January 7th
Next Home Meet: Saturday, February 11th vs Stanford
Current National Ranking: 8th
Celebrating their 2016 Pac-12 title, won at the annual conference meet at the University of Washington. Photo courtesy of pac12.com
When I heard that this team was beginning the season ranked fourth in the nation, my reaction was this…
How could a team with TWO Olympic gold medal winners, one of them having won her gold just a few months ago in Rio, be ranked 4th?!
I felt that those Bruins were being disrespected.
Indeed, the news that Kyla Ross, a member of London’s “Fab Five” with Gabby Douglas, and “Final Five” member Madison Kocian, fresh off her team gold triumph with Douglas, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and Laurie Hernandez,
Caused much excitement in me as I’ve never been more pumped about a UCLA gymnastics team then I am about this one.
The fact that Kocian and Ross did not disappoint in this season’s opening meet at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus, Ross getting a 9.875 on the vault and winning (in a three-way tie) the uneven bars with the same score while Kocian won three events and the all-around in UCLA’s defeat of Arkansas, only enhanced my good feelings about these bunch of Bruins.
Highlights from the Bruins’ first meet & win, courtesy of YouTube
Not that it’s a two-woman show as nothing can be further from the truth; there are so many key gymnasts returning that I can safely say there’s an embarrassment of riches in Westwood on those four apparatuses.
Kocian and Ross are just two of nine freshmen that “Miss Val”, as she is affectionately called, recruited this year, two of them, Felicia Hano and Gracie Kramer, making their collegiate debuts on Saturday.
Angi Cipra, who caused such a sensation with her floor exercise routine last year,
Mikaela Gerber, who’s been a rock on the balance beam throughout her days as a Bruin and tied with Kocian for the high score in that event on Saturday,
Hallie Mossett, whose Beyonce-inspired floor routine secured the win over Arkansas, bringing down the house in the process,
The highest score by a Bruin in Saturday’s meet vs Arkansas, a 9.90 provided by Madison Preston on vault. Courtesy of YouTube.
And Christine Peng Peng Lee, who was her usual outstanding self on the bars as she tied Ross and Kocian for first place honors in that event,
Are the seniors on this squad.
Madison Preston had the highest score of any Bruin in that first meet, a 9.90 on the vault, and she will be another key (among many) to UCLA’s success.
As will Katelyn Ohashi, whose fun personality is most infectious, on the balance beam.
Stella Savvidou gives the Bruins more strength on bars, and Sonya Meraz – who incidentally is a graduate of the same high school as me, Santa Monica High School, inducing much personal pride – continues to be a steady influence in the all-around.
The floor routine that secured the win for UCLA, courtesy of Hallie Mossett. Courtesy of YouTube.
I could go on forever about the members of this team, but I want to make a personal note…
I have been watching this gymnastics team of my alma mater’s for nearly 15 years.
No other sport on the UCLA campus – not even basketball or football – has provided me with more enjoyment as a sports fan than these ladies.
Which is why I must be honest and say this:
Last year I stated that this Bruin Gymnastics team was one of my three favorite teams in sports, along with their UCLA football brothers and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
I couldn’t do an article like this without showing a video of Madson Kocian & Kyla Ross in action, as they’re the first two Olympic Gold Medalists to participate in an NCAA gymnastics meet. Courtesy of YouTube.
That has changed as while the Bruins are still my favorite gridiron team and the Dodgers remain my favorites in baseball and professional sports,
Because of their excellence in their sport, in the classroom, as role models to the multitudes of young girls who flock to their meets, and everywhere else,
And the just plain fun atmosphere that is had at their meets as they seem to genuinely have a great time,
Plus the fact that they are an outstanding group of young ladies who are – as I have already stated – a true credit, asset, and honor to the UCLA Community and the Bruin Nation along with Miss Val and her coaching staff, which includes Jordyn Wieber, yet another Olympic gold medalist and “Fab Five” teammate of Ross’,
I will go ahead and say that this UCLA Women’s Gymnastics program is my favorite team in all of sports.
Look who came out to Pauley Pavilion to cheer the Bruin gymnasts on, as having an Olympic hero come to a UCLA meet is quite exciting! Courtesy of YouTube.
Considering my background and longtime experience as a sports fan and in sports in general, I think that is saying something.
I don’t believe too many people would disagree with me, certainly not the fans who flock to Pauley for the meets as their attendance is bigger than in any other Bruin sport save for football and men’s basketball.
And I think it should go without saying that I’m very much looking forward to seeing the rest of their home meets.
If you want proof of the excellence and fun atmosphere that these Bruins provide, I encourage you to check out a meet.
For more information and to buy tickets, go to the UCLA Athletics website, http://www.uclabruins.com
Trust me on this; you won’t be disappointed.
A shot of the UCLA gymnasts, with this year’s home schedule featured. Courtesy of twitter.com