UCLA’s women’s gymnastics team, which finished fourth in the nation last year, is back competing against No. 22 Ohio State on Saturday. No. 6 UCLA enters the season as the favorite to win the Pac-12 after losing to No. 5 Utah last year. Without further ado, let’s look at some of the gymnasts behind UCLA’s preseason hype.
This year’s team is led by a pair of sophomores, Olympic silver medalist Madison Kocian who finished fifth nationally in the all-around competition last year and former World Champion Kyla Ross.
Kocian’s role is vital as she remains the team’s only elite all-around competitor. She was also first-team all-conference on the Floor Exercise, an event in which she finished tenth nationally.
The question that Kocian will need to answer is: “How healthy is her shoulder after surgery in the off-season?” Time will tell.
Kyla Ross impressed everyone last year, winning national championships on the Uneven Bars and the Balance Beam, while being named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. She is a favorite to win both of those national titles again this year.
Also, look out for Senior Christine Peng-Peng Lee, an impressive specialist who finished third in the Bars last year, and Junior Katelyn Ohashi, who is one of the best beam competitors in the nation.
This Year’s Freshmen
After an extraordinary recruiting class last year, UCLA seems to have a relatively weak class this year. Notable recruits are Sophia Gonzalez, a former member of the Filipino National team; two-time German national champion Pauline Tratz; and Junior National Championship qualifier Kendal Poston.
UCLA is one of the best teams in the nation, with superstars like Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian, but a national championship is going to be tough. UCLA has a ton of talent, just like they did last year. Obviously, their strongest events are the Bars and the Beam. But, also like last year, they need to be more well-rounded.
They’re probably going to struggle in the all-around (Kocian remains the only all-around threat) and I definitely see UCLA struggling against top teams with more depth like LSU and Oklahoma. If they want to challenge for the championship I think we’re going to need to see strong performances from some of the lesser known gymnasts on the Vault and on the Floor.