The NCAA Weekly|23 September

1. UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field has announced her retirement at the end of the 2019 season. She wrote on Instagram: ‘I have had the immense privilege and pleasure of serving UCLA and its athletic department for the past 36 years. I have enjoyed every moment of this journey, so it is bittersweet to announce that I will retire as the head coach of the UCLA Gymnastics team following the 2019 season.
I have always thought of life as a grand adventure, and since conquering breast cancer, I have been motivated to delve deeper into the many different areas of life that inspire me. I will greatly miss all of the wonderful people that make up UCLA Athletics and, most importantly, the daily interaction with our student-athletes, coaches and staff. However, I will forever be our most ardent supporter and look forward to continuing the dance in a different role but always as a proud UCLA Bruin.’ Miss Val spent 36 years with the Bruins, has more than 500 career victories under her belt and led her team to seven NCAA National Championships victories, including the latest one last year. Miss Val, however, is more than a successful coach. She is a mentor and an example, in sports as in life. She has positively impacted generations of athletes across the U.S. and beyond, as well as people unconcerned with gymnastics, but touched by her bravery, her toughness, her positivity and especially her drive to always improve herself and help others. Reporting her retirement is a piece of news I wish I never had to write. She will be deeply missed, but there is no sweeter sadness than the one produced by beautiful memories. I shall cherish them forever. Miss Val, thank you! ❤

2. More details have emerged following Alabama alumna Amanda Jetter‘s revelation that she too is a victim of Larry Nassar. When Amanda was thirteen and was an Olympic hopeful, she pulled her hamstring and was sent to see Nassar. Amanda went there with her parents, but Nassar asked to see her alone. After he performed his ‘therapy’, he asked Amanda’s father to record the treatment. Feeling that something was not right, Jerry Jetter reported it to Amanda’s coach, Mary Lee Tracy, who however allegedly told Mr Jetter that Nassar was a good doctor. Versions, however, differ. Ms Tracy claims that ‘If any athlete of mine or parent would ever come to me with something like that, I would act on it immediately’. According to Jerry Jetter, however, at the time of the abuse Ms Tracy replied to him: ‘And she goes, “Jerry, I don’t know. I’m not a doctor but I can assure you Larry is the finest doctor I’ve been with.” And she was loyal to Larry. She defended him and it just kinda faded away’. Amanda herself did not tell anyone until recently. At the time, when her father asked her if Nassar had touched her inappropriately, she answered ‘No’. Only years later she told him the truth. Jerry Jetter says that ‘I stopped her because I told her, because I say, Amanda, I don’t want to know and I believe you’. And once again the question is: Who knew? And why didn’t the responsible adults do anything?

3. Alabama senior Peyton Ernst announced her retirement from gymnastics on Twitter this week. She explained that the past year was very tough for her, both physically and emotionally, but that she did not want to retire for fear of being considered a failure. This summer, however, while taking time off gymnastics, she realised that she had not been as happy in a very long time, and the decision came almost natural to her. Peyton’s gymnastics career was tortuous. An international elite gymnast from 2011 to 2014, in 2015 she joined the University of Florida Gators. After a successful freshman season, however, Peyton underwent surgery, and she was invited to medically retire. She, however, felt her career was not over yet, and transferred to Alabama, where she competed on beam during the past season. She now thanks her coaches at Texas Dreams for a fantastic club career, and Alabama head coach Dana Duckworth for giving her the chance to compete again. About her future, Peyton writes on Twitter: ‘It’s hard and it kills me to say good bye to something I have done and loved for 19 years, but I know I have so much more to offer. What that is I may not know for certain, but I’m ready to explore what that may be. I will forever be grateful for this sport and the happiness that it has brought me.’

4. Official practice sessions began for most teams this week, and there are tons of videos floating around the Internet. Freshmen across the country, however, stole the show with some incredible skills. Georgia’s Mikayla Magee is training a beautiful piked full-in on floor. Nebraska’s Abigail Johnston is training a switch leap to switch leap half series on beam. Florida’s Nya Reed showed off a beautiful double layout on floor, as well as a front Toss to beat jump on beam. LSU’s Rebecca D’Antonio is training a gorgeous double Arabian on floor. Arkansas’s Bailey Lovett is also training a high double layout of floor. Penn State’s Melissa Astarita learnt to perform a Maloney on bars. Utah’s Adrienne Randall is training the difficult Rulfova on beam and teammate Cristal Isa impressed with a full pirouette into double layout on bars – you cannot get enough of that! UCLA’s Norah Flatley showed off a beautiful double layout off bars. Michigan State’s Sydney Ewing is training a Tkatchev on bars and teammate Alaina Raybon a front somersault on beam. Southern Utah’s Caitlin Kho is training a difficult Yurchenko one-and-a-half on vault. Alaska’s Rachel Decious is training a super difficult double front dismount on bars – way to go for the Seawolves! Finally, Oklahoma’s Olivia Trautman is also training a beautiful double layout on floor, while teammate Emma LaPinta stuck a fantastic triple twist on floor.

5. Sophomores also had their say this week. Oklahoma’s Anastasia Webb was on fire, showing off a front double twist to punch front on floor and a double front half out dismount off bars. UCLA’s Pauline Tratz was seen training a Gainer front full dismount on beam, while teammate Anna Glenn is training Peng Peng Lee’s acro series on beam: BHSO + layout to two feet. Georgia’s Emily Schild is training a beautiful Ray on bars. Temple’s Monica Servidio is training a triple series on beam: BHSO + LOSO + LOSO. Florida’s Jazmyn Foberg is training a double layout on floor, and the same pass is also being trained by LSU’s Sarah Edwards. Missouri’s Gabrielle Gottula is training a full-in also on floor. After showing off a Yurchenko 1.5 last week, Pitt’s Sophie Botchenek is now training a full-in on floor. Ohio State’s Danica Abanto is training a gorgeous double pike on floor – those pointed toes!!! And Arizona State’s Cairo Leonard-Baker is also training a double layout on floor.

6. The junior class is also upping their game. Illnois’s Rae Balthazor is training a full-in into the pit on floor. San Jose State’s Taylor Chan is training a back one-and-a-half twist to front pike to stag jump on floor – beautiful! Georgia’s Rachel Dickson is training a full-twisting double layout off bars – amazing!!! New Hampshire’s Riley Freehling is training a high double Arabian on floor, while teammate Emma Winer is training a new pass on floor: a back one-and-a-half twist to front half twist to leap jump. And Temple’s Daisy Todd has her own interpretation of a Wolf turn on beam!

7. Finally, seniors are stepping up with some genuinely stunning work. Oklahoma’s Alex Marks has been working hard on bars, and is now performing a beautiful full-twisting double back dismount off bars. Teammate Brenna Dowell is bringing back her eponymous skill on floor: the front double pike! And Nicole Lehrmann is training a Yurchenko 1.5 on vault!!! Kentucky’s Alex Hyland also keeps improving on the same vault. And SEMO’s Allyson Bell is training a very hard mount on beam: a punch front somersault.

8. UCLA was at their annual retreat camp in Woodward West. It was an emotional coming-together time, when, together with training and dancing, the Bruins took time to get to know each other better, trust each other more, and share personal stories. Gymnasts had very sweet words for each other. Junior Madison Kocian said that: ‘We walk as one, we move as one.’ Senior Katelyn Ohashi added: ‘The team is more important than our self, and there is no I in team.’ And freshman Norah Flately continued: ‘The amount of joy that we have for each other and love we have for each other is amazing, and I feel so lucky to be a Bruin.’

9. Here are the coaching news of the week. Former NCAA gymnast Kim Parsons Valenti is the new head coach at Ursinus College. Valenti graduated from James Madison University in 2010, and since then she has been assistant coach at the University of Pennsylvania, MIT and Temple. And Oregon State alumna Brittany Harris was named assistant coach at Lindenwood. Harris competed for the Beavers from 2011 to 2014, and was back as volunteer assistant coach in 2017, focussing on balance beam and on choreographing floor routines.

10. Here are the commits of the week: Nicole Wojcik to Lindenwood (2021), Sydney Lopez also to Lindenwood (2020), Nhyla Bryant to Georgia (2021), Mara Johnson to Texas Woman’s (2020) and Jenna Mulligan to Michigan (2021).

Routine of the week

One of the masterpieces in Valorie Kondos Field’s outstanding choreography repertoire – UCLA’s Kate Richardson’s unique floor routine in 2004.




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