UCLA Looking For A Repeat In Legendary Coach's Final Meet

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Even if you’re not a gymnastics fan, you’ve probably had some sort of exposure to the UCLA gymnastics team. You may have seen Katelyn Ohashi moonwalking and split-jumping to Michael Jackson in her viral floor routine. You may have seen Kyla Ross win the team gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics, or Madison Kocian win the team gold and the bars silver medal in Rio. And you may know that the Bruins are the reigning national champions, which they won by 0.0375 last year in one of the greatest moments in sports history.

With a near-perfect record (its one loss was to Oklahoma), a No. 2 national ranking, and more perfect 10s than all of the other NCAA teams combined, the UCLA gymnastics team has established itself as one of the top competitors in the field this season. And if the stakes weren’t high enough, this is head coach Valorie Kondos Field’s last season, after 37 years with the Bruins, 28 as coach, and seven national championships. 

Field’s coaching has made UCLA a top choice for former elites, who often arrive to college beleaguered from years of intense training and competition and end up thriving under Field’s leadership. The team includes Olympic gold medalists Ross and Kocian as well as former elites Nia Dennis, Norah Flatley, Margzetta Frazier, Felicia Hano, Macy Toronjo, Pauline Tratz, and Ohashi. One of the best parts of watching UCLA is to see these women compete—to see them trade the humorless intensity of elite for fist pumps and dead drops and find the joy in the sport again.

And we should see plenty of those this weekend. Here’s what to look out for from the Bruins at nationals on each event. 

Vault

National ranking: No. 3 (behind Oklahoma and Utah)

Likely lineup: Nia Dennis, Sekai Wright, Pauline Tratz, Felicia Hano, Kyla Ross, Gracie Kramer

In a field where the top teams aim to stack their lineups with as many 10.0 start-value vaults as possible, UCLA has taken a slightly different approach, slotting in athletes who have both solid Yurchenko fulls as well as 1.5s and strategically deploying each where appropriate. (If you need a refresher, check out our list of vaults with a 10.0 start value.) You’ll see this strategy in full force with sophomore Nia Dennis, who has both a full and a 1.5 and has competed both throughout this season. Recently, we’ve seen her bring her big, beautiful full to the party, scoring a 9.9 in both the regional semifinals and finals.  

Another gorgeous Yurchenko full comes from sophomore Pauline Tratz, who is also capable of a 9.9—and did exactly that in the regional finals.

As for the Yurchenko 1.5s, we’ll mostly likely see them from freshman Sekai Wright, junior Felicia Hano, junior Kyla Ross, and junior Gracie Kramer. Wright hits around a 9.85 consistently, with an RQS score of 9.855 and a season-high of 9.875. We’ll probably see a similar score from Kramer, who usually serves as the lineup’s anchor and sometimes competes a full instead of the 1.5.

Hano has flirted with perfection all season, scoring multiple 9.95s, an RQS score of 9.930, and claiming a share of the Pac-12 vault championship title (along with Utah’s Mykayla Skinner). And Ross, with her textbook 1.5, has multiple perfect 10s under her belt this season, with landings so beautifully stuck it’s as if her feet are outfitted with magnets. We’ll hopefully see her bring those to nationals.

Bars

National ranking: No. 1

Likely lineup: Margzetta Frazier, Nia Dennis, Felicia Hano, Norah Flatley, Madison Kocian, Kyla Ross

There’s a reason that UCLA is ranked No. 1 in the country on bars: their lineup has some of the most consistently excellent bar workers in the NCAA, with the majority of scores coming in between 9.9 and 10.0 each meet.

Leading off the Bruins this weekend will most likely be freshman Margzetta Frazier, who has an RQS score of 9.915 and has gone as high as a 9.95 this season. Frazier brings a goodie-bag of elite skills to this routine, including a Shaposhnikova/Pak combination, a Van Leeuwen, and a beautiful double-layout dismount. 

Nia Dennis has also scored up to a 9.95 this season and has been a major value-add to the bars lineup in the most recent meets. Same with Felicia Hano, whose 9.875 season-high isn’t quite to the level of her teammates, but she brings maturity and consistency to the event that earns her a spot in the mix.

Freshman Norah Flatley, with an NQS score of 9.920 and a season-high of 9.975, is a force on bars, with beautiful lines and a gorgeous straddled Jaeger. And it wouldn’t be a bars lineup without Madison Kocian, who is a world gold medalist and Olympic silver medalist on this event. Kocian has consistently scored over a 9.9 this season, with a perfect 10 against ASU and an NQS score of 9.945. Watching her on bars is like watching someone float/fly/levitate/some- verb-that-nobody-has-quite-made-up-yet. If she brings her A-game to nationals, we just might get another perfect 10 out of her.

Anchoring the Bruins will most likely be Kyla Ross, the Pac-12 bars champion who has scored multiple perfect 10s on the event this season. (Her NQS score is 9.995, which shows you how consistently excellent she is.) Ross’ handstands are the best in the game—perfectly vertical above the bar, with just a little pause at the top to milk it—and her double layout, a dismount ubiquitous in NCAA gymnastics, looks like an entirely different skill when she does it, with an elegance and floatiness that blows the competition out of the water.

Beam

National ranking: No. 2 (behind Oklahoma)

Likely lineup: Grace Glenn, Brielle Nguyen, Madison Kocian, Norah Flatley, Katelyn Ohashi, Kyla Ross

On beam, we’ll most likely see junior Grace Glenn—who has particularly stand-out leaps, flexibility, and a gorgeous dismount—kick things off. After a textbook-consistent season, Glenn had a fall in the regional finals, which could end up affecting her mentally—but with an NQS score of 9.9 and a season-high of 9.95, she’s got the goods for a big score at nationals. (Coach Kondos Field, or “Miss Val,” has said that if she wasn’t in the leadoff spot, she’d probably be getting perfect 10s.)

Next up will probably be senior Brielle Nguyen, a beam specialist with a season-high score of a 9.9 and a gorgeous front aerial back layout step-out combination. We’ll also see Madison Kocian, who has been less consistent here than on bars (her NQS score is an 9.840, the lowest in the lineup), back on the beam, but she can deliver a 9.875 or above if she hits.

Freshman Norah Flatley will no doubt make the lineup, with a season-high of a 9.925 and an NQS score of 9.885. Flatley has always been a beam queen—check out this routine from her junior elite days—and is notably solid, poised, and mature on this event. Her connections, both in her tumbling and jumps, are particularly beautiful.  

Katelyn Ohashi, a senior, may be known for her viral floor routine, but she’s also an extraordinary beam worker; she rocks that four-inch piece of wood like it’s a Broadway stage. That’s an impressive feat, considering she has one of the most difficult beam routines in college gymnastics—including a back handspring/back handspring/layout combination that she lands on two feet. (That’s a pass that would be notable in elite, let alone in college.) With an NQS score 9.965 and a season-high of 9.975, we can count on her to deliver a big score at nationals.

And lastly, we have Kyla Ross again, who—like on every other event—has counted multiple perfect 10s on beam this season. Her confidence and elegance on this apparatus is unmatched in the field, and if she does what she always does, we’ll see something at or near perfection. 

Floor

National ranking: No. 1 

Likely lineup: Margzetta Frazier, Pauline Tratz, Gracie Kramer, Kyla Ross, Felicia Hano, Katelyn Ohashi

Thousands of words could be written about the UCLA floor rotation, but we’ll leave it at this: UCLA floor routines are what NCAA gymnastics is all about, with serious, clean tumbling matched with expressive, original choreography that is genuinely a blast to watch. The entire UCLA floor lineup feels like a dance party, and it’s no wonder that the routines have gotten attention outside of the gymnastics universe.

Margzetta Frazier will likely kick things off with what is one of the most epic floor routines in the NCAA—complete with super difficult tumbling, vogueing, and a dead-drop finale. This routine never fails to get the crowd going, and it has the scores to match; Frazier has an NQS score of 9.905 and a season-high of 9.95.

We’ll most likely see Pauline Tratz, Gracie Kramer, and Felicia Hano on the floor as well, all of whom have been hitting 9.9s and above all season long (and have season-highs of 9.95s). Particularly memorable are Tratz’s strange-yet-intriguing choreography, Hano’s double-layout opening pass, and Kramer’s Twilight-Zone-y music, which she mixed herself—and don’t miss Hano’s rendition of the worm, which she does mid-way through her routine.

Up until this year, floor could be considered Kyla Ross’ weakest event; her artistry and expression weren’t quite at the levels of some of her competitors. But she broke through this season with a perfect 10, completing a Gym Slam (a perfect 10 on every apparatus), and never looked back. 

Last but not least, we have Katelyn Ohashi, who you probably know from the routine that blew up the internet this year. Ohashi has earned seven perfect 10s this season, and it’s not hard to see why—her intricate dance moves, her next-level tumbling (that split-leg double layout!), and the fun she has while doing it make for a truly unforgettable routine. What’s more, Ohashi has a new routine for the postseason, which she debuted at the regional finals—and got a perfect 10 for. Her new music trades in the Michael Jackson for Tina Turner and Beyonce, an all-lady mashup that will get you off your feet—and couldn’t be more befitting for such a fierce, dynamic team of women.

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