It’s hard to believe that gymnastics season is here again, but tomorrow kicks off the first official event of the season, the Meet the Bruins blue vs. white intersquad event, taking place at Pauley Pavilion at 2:00 pm PT.
Despite the fact that it’s just an intersquad meet, it will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks. Admission is free and, following the event, head coach Valorie Kondos Field will be signing her new book, Life is Short; Don’t Wait to Dance.
This first look at the season will show what the team will look like in 2019, which will be Miss Val’s final season with the Bruins. Vacancies left by 2018 graduates Christine Peng-Peng Lee, Rechelle Dennis, Napualani Hall, JaNay Honest, and Sonya Meraz will certainly be felt, but there is plenty of talent waiting in the wings.
Freshmen Norah Flatley, Margzetta Frazier, Sara Taubman, and Sekai Wright are new additions to the team this year, and the UCLA gymnastics staff is quickly adding to the 2020 team. Jordan Chiles, Kaylany Steele and Frida Esparza have all signed letters of intent and will enter UCLA in the 2019-2020 school year as freshmen.
UCLA finished the 2018 season as national champions, with Peng-Peng Lee taking home the individual event championship on beam with a perfect “10”, which was the walk off performance that secured the Bruins’ title, and with Katelyn Ohashi tying with Oklahoma’s Maggie Nichols for the floor championship with a 9.9625.
Tomorrow’s event will showcase what UCLA has been tirelessly working on since the start of the school year. These women train day in and day out in Yates Gym, where there is definitely something in the air. When you walk in, these women emanate confidence, grace, and love for their sport and school, but they thank you for coming when you enter their space.
I know this firsthand as my family and I attended a small intersquad event in October. We happened to be there on Coach’s birthday, when the alumni band came in and played “Happy Birthday” while the team sang. On a second occasion, my daughter and I visited practice and every team member that we came into contact with introduced herself and thanked us for coming. We were invited to hang out as if we were family, and Miss Val was no exception. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there is just something to this team; something that is special and unique and not to be missed.
UCLA will host five home meets at Pauley Pavilion and one additional quad meet at the Honda Center in Anaheim. The first meet of the season is Friday, January 4 vs. Nebraska at 6:00 pm PT and will be broadcast on ESPN2.