Between the Bars
Head coach Valorie Kondos Field discusses the NCAA Championships.
April 25, 2005
Back from the National Championships. We had a great week of growth and revelation for our team. Every day we saw more of our team's character come out in positive and "refusing to lose" ways. When it was all said and done, it just wasn't our night. But the enthusiasm with which our team kept fighting was exciting to be a part of and extremely promising for our future. Congratulations to Georgia; they were unbeatable that night. It's exciting when your team gets on a roll like they did.
Congratulations also to Tasha and Kristen for finishing one and two in the all-around and to the rest of the top all-around finishers. That first day of competition was intense with so many teams fighting to get into the Super Six and so many great athletes vying for the top individual all-around spots. Tasha and Kristen continued to do what they've done all season, which is pushing each other to be their very best. As Tasha told me about a month ago, she was so appreciative that she had at least one year to train and compete with Maloney. She felt that Maloney's competitiveness and total commitment to each routine in training and competition helped pushed her to be her very best her freshman year.
I didn't get to see much of the Super Six, but from what I heard, it was one of the most intense national championships ever. In fact, every team that represented the Top 12 teams in the country showed that collegiate gymnastics is getting stronger. That first night of competition was as intense as the Super Six. Every time I looked around the arena, all the other five teams were doing amazing gymnastics.
As a Bruin, it was a promising start at the Super Six to have our first two athletes go out and hit better than they've hit all season, especially on our first two events. It was also promising and a lot of fun to watch our freshmen thrive in the heat of the competition. Tasha is a warrior. She got the flu on Friday and still managed to go out there and hit 9.9s. Lindsey had to follow a fall on beam both nights and did not flinch. She was so much into the battle I think she literally had some out of body experience after she hit her beam routine at the Super Six. And Jordan literally gets ignited from within as the competition heats up. When she dismounted off beam on Thursday, she did a fist pump as she ran off the podium, which really sparked a fire within the team. They were a lot of fun.
As for our seniors, Kisha Auld hit the best vault she's ever vaulted in a competition. We call her our "track star". Chris has had a ball teaching her that vault (tsuk layout full) the last two years. It broke my heart that Christie Tedmon fell on her last two beam performances of her career. Her only mistake was going too hard, not wanting to hold back because of her torn MCL. And Maloney ... well ... sprained ankle and all she was, as usual, amazing.
With regards to the Individual Event Finals night, Kate, Tasha, and Maloney all did great routines. I hope I can speak for the entire gymnastics family, regardless of school affiliation, that it was a well-earned and fitting grand finale for Maloney to go out in pure Maloney fashion - "Play Big. Play Hard. And dazzle the crowd." I've been a Kristen Maloney groupie since she first stormed the U.S. Gymnastics scene many years ago. A day hasn't gone by since she reported to us in the fall of 2000 that I haven't had at least one "Maloney moment" - where I quietly watch her train and think "She is indeed a living legend in our sport."
I asked her two weeks ago why she wanted to compete the double layout full-out on floor. Chris and I didn't want her thinking that she had to upgrade her already packed floor routine for a shot to win the NCAA Floor title. She said if she was only concerned about winning the title she would compete the routine she's competed all season for sake of consistency. Her reason for wanting to compete the skill was that she wanted to compete, one last time, the most fun skill she's ever performed.
My husband summed up what Kristen has meant to our sport best. As he said in a toast to her Saturday night, "If we could give Kristen's heart to every student-athlete at UCLA, we would never lose another game in any sport."
From Chris, Marshall, myself and our staff - we are all so proud of every team member this season. It was a tremendous year of personal growth for everyone, coaches included. We haven't "arrived" but we certainly took the necessary steps to be able to do so next season!
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