UCLA turned in a performance for the ages at the NCAA women’s gymnastics championships on April 21, scoring an NCAA Championship record 49.75 on balance beam to earn the 2018 NCAA championship. It was the Bruins’ seventh NCAA gymnastics championship and first since 2010 — as well as UCLA’s 115th overall team title.
The Bruins ended the evening with an overall score of 198.075, unseating the two-time defending national champion University of Oklahoma by 0.0375 points.
“I’ve been doing this at UCLA for 35 years and I have said the last few months and have said repeatedly the last few weeks that, in all of my time we’ve had tremendous, tremendous teams and tremendous, not just athletes, but student-athletes and people,” said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. “Which is the reason I feel I have the greatest job in the world.”
“But this team truly is the easiest team that I’ve ever coached. And that is because this time last year we said … if we want a different result we’ve got to do things differently…. And on and on and they did it. They decided to do it … last April, and they’ve been consistent with it. And because of that, my job has been so easy this year. This truly is a dream team.”
The championship meet, held at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, was not decided until the event’s final routine. Sixth-year senior Christine Peng-Peng Lee needed to score at least a 9.975 on the beam to give UCLA the title. She went a step further, scoring a perfect 10 — her second of the night after a perfect score on the uneven bars.
For Lee, competing in her final collegiate meet, it was the second time this season she recorded two 10s in one meet, and the ninth and 10th perfect 10s of her UCLA career.
Prior to Lee’s performance, Kyla Ross kept UCLA in it with an impressive 9.9875.
But the Bruins’ comeback was keyed in rotation five by a season-high 49.6375 performance on uneven bars. UCLA counted four scores of 9.9 or better — a 9.9 from JaNay Honest, a season-high 9.9375 from Madison Kocian, a 9.95 from Ross and a 10.0 from Lee. The Bruins stood just .175 behind the first-place Sooners going into the final event.
Redshirt freshman Grace Glenn led off the final rotation with a 9.9375 on the beam. A fall in the two spot put some pressure on, but Brielle Nguyen scored 9.875 and Katelyn Ohashi scored 9.950. The Bruins still needed big scores in the final two routines to move past Oklahoma. Ross set it up with a 9.9875, setting up Lee’s heroics.
“I looked at the scoreboard, and I saw UCLA on top, and I am still in shock,” Lee said. “My tears have not come out yet. I said they’re still dancing and having a party in my eyeballs… I’m shocked I’m here, shocked we have the trophy, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end with this team.”
Lee and Ohashi also both earned individual NCAA championships, winning top honors in the balance beam and floor exercise, respectively. The individual titles were the first for each gymnast.