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UCLA Gymnastics Sends Off Miss Val the Right Way—With a Giant Dance Party

In Miss Val’s last appearance as head coach in Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins brought home a win with a serendipitous ending.

Miss Val, at the front of the giant conga line that snaked its way around Pauley Pavilion.
Joe Piechowski

UCLA gymnastics ended their regular season at home last Saturday with a win over Utah State with a final score of 197.575 to 194.850, honoring both the 2019 seniors and head coach Valorie Kondos Field’s last appearance in Pauley Pavilion in front of a crowd of 12,270. In attendance were several UCLA gymnastics alumnae, including Ariana Berlin who was the subject of the movie Full Out, Christine Peng Peng Lee, and Tanya Chaplin, the current Oregon State head coach, and many others. Additionally, the Utah State head coach Amy Smith was part of the first NCAA championship team under Miss Val.

Before the meet, UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero came onto the floor to honor Miss Val and he announced that the gymnastics floor will now be named the Valorie Kondos Field Floor to honor Miss Val’s contributions and dedication not only to the floor exercise, but the gymnastics world as well. She has been credited with bringing back the joy to gymnastics that many gymnasts lost in a sport where the pressure to win often overshadows the happiness that can be felt from competing in a sport you love.

If we’re being perfectly honest, the meet itself seemed secondary to the pre- and post-meet celebrations for both Miss Val and the seniors as the Bruins recorded their second-lowest team score at home this season.

Vault highlights include Nia Dennis’s opening vault where she stuck the landing to earn a 9.850 while Felicia Hano followed with a career-high 9.950. Pauline Tratz posted a solid score of 9.825, which UCLA probably would have like to have dropped, but Kyla Ross fell on her landing giving her the Bruins’ lowest score which ended up being the one that got dropped. After all six vaults, UCLA began the meet ahead with a 49.100. Meanwhile, Utah State totaled a 48.525 on bars.

Moving to bars, Margzetta Frazier would once again open the rotation with an almost flawless routine, earning a 9.900. Nia Dennis then earned a career-high 9.950. Grace Glenn slipped off and fell during her routine, resulting in a 9.35. The second half of UCLA’s rotation saw Norah Flatley score a 9.925 and Madison Kocian followed with one of her best bar routines this season, earning her a 9.950. Kyla Ross anchored the event for the Bruins and she over-rotated and gravity got the best of her, causing her to fall. As a result of having two falls, UCLA had ended up having to count one of them and it was Ross’ 9.475 that got used. Because of that, UCLA had a team score for the bars of 49.200 while Utah State earned a team score of 48.575 on the vault. After two rotations, UCLA was still able to increase their lead to 98.300 to 97.100 despite their mishaps on the bars.

The Bruins managed to get their mojo back on beam when Glenn started off with a 9.950. The next four scores alternated between 9.850 and 9.825. Brielle Nguyen started it off with a 9.850 and Kocian followed with the first 9.825. Flatley was next with a 9.850 and Katelyn Ohashi earned a 9.825. Ross managed to regain her composure and notch a 9.975 to end the rotation. Later, Miss Val claimed that she used a chemistry problem to help Ross calm down. The Bruins finished up the beam with a 49.400 as the Aggies earned their meet-high 49.000 on the floor. That extended the UCLA lead for the second time and the Bruins now led the meet 147.750 to 146.100.

As the Bruins moved to the floor, UCLA really turned on the afterburners where they not only earned great scores, but also saw history made. Frazier started the rotation off strong with a 9.850 and Gracie Kramer increased the momentum with a 9.925. Tratz came back strong with a 9.950.

Then, after flirting with it for weeks, Ross finally earned a perfect 10 on the floor and that completed a “Gym Slam,” which is what they call it when a gymnast scores a perfect 10 on all four events. Ross is just the 11th gymnast in NCAA history do it ever and she’s just the 7th to do it all in one season. It also extended her perfect 10 streak to seven meets in a row, which was looking like it might end after her fall on the bars.

Hano followed Ross and earned a 9.950 on what seemed like a perfect routine. Then, for the final time in Pauley Pavilion and for the fifth time this season, Katelyn Ohashi earned yet another perfect 10 for her floor routine. After her perfect performance, Ohashi high-fived the front row and proceeded to run over to the alumni band and conduct them as they played the UCLA fight song.

In total, the Bruins scored 49.825 on the floor which is the third highest in school history. Over on the beam, Utah State earned a team total of 48.750 and the final score was UCLA, 197.575, Utah State, 194.850.

Following the meet, the current UCLA assistant coaches started off a giant dance party to honor Miss Val accompanied by gymnastics alums, the alumni band, the student section, and even the Utah State team. It even included a conga line around Pauley. It was the perfect way to honor the passion, enthusiasm, and sheer happiness of a ballet dancer who came to UCLA to play piano for floor routines and ended up building an incredible gymnastics program that won’t soon be forgotten and, at least for a day, it reminded us all that “Life is Short, Don’t Want to Dance.”

Go Bruins!