Kyla Ross dances her way to a career-high all-around score as UCLA stays undefeated
Junior Kyla Ross is not a dancer. At least, that’s what she says. Her UCLA gymnastics teammates rope her into group dances, and senior Katelyn Ohashi would make her dance in the dorms as a freshman.
“They’re always like, ‘Kyla, you go!’ And I’m like, ‘No, not me,’ ” Ross said, laughing. “But I feel like I’ve become less embarrassed.”
Judging by Ross’ floor routine this season, any past discomfort dancing is indiscernible. She tumbles and flips through her routine with a subtle grin, in character as a bandit, stealing perfect 10s from the judges.
“She’s a great dancer too,” Coach Valorie Kondos Field said. “I’m not just saying that. She’s a very good, really good dancer.”
On Saturday, Ross earned a 9.95 for her floor routine, part of a career-high all-around score of 39.85, the fourth highest in school history. The last time a Bruin posted a score that high was in 2004, when Jeanette Antolin earned a 39.875.
Behind Ross’ performance, No. 3-ranked UCLA scored higher than 198 for the first time this season, remaining undefeated with a 198.025-194.975 win against No. 25 Arizona at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday. The meet also marked a season-high attendance, with a crowd of 10,323 turning out.
The Bruins improved to 9-0, while the Wildcats fell to 3-6.
“She’s like the G.O.A.T., and she’s so humble,” Ohashi said of Ross. “She’s a great example of what it’s like to be on the top of your game and still be so down to earth.”
The last two years at UCLA, Ross’ strengths have been on beam and the uneven bars. This season, she wanted to change that. She spent the offseason poring over her vault.
It paid off Saturday. For the second consecutive week, Ross earned a perfect 10.
She had scored her first career 10 on vault the meet before. As she embraced Ohashi after learning her score, she exclaimed, “I did it,” and laughed.
Ross was a standout once again on the uneven bars, scoring a 9.975. A week after posting a career-high all-around score of 39.775, Ross scored 9.9 or higher in each rotation, earning the title of champion in all-around, vault, uneven bars and beam Saturday.
Five Bruins earned 9.9 or higher on the uneven bars, but only Ross scored higher than 9.9 on the beam because of mistakes Kondos Field called “uncharacteristic.” But even with the errors, UCLA ended with a score above 198, a threshold the coach has implored her team to pass all season.
“I think it says a lot considering that we didn’t have a flawless meet,” Kondos Field said. “I feel like we should be scoring in mid-198 every single time… I feel like we’re ramping up to that. They just really need to believe it.”
On Monday, Kondos Field said she would ask the gymnasts who perform consistently to share their methods. Gymnasts such as Ohashi.
“I kind of approach it with having as much fun as possible,” Ohashi said. “I think this is my last year, and I kind of just want to soak everything in.”
That’s what she did on vault Saturday, her first time competing in that rotation since February of last year, and that’s what she did on floor, where she earned her second consecutive perfect 10 — her third of the season — for her renowned floor routine.
After she made her final salute, Ohashi disappeared. She feeds off the energy of her audience and wanted to give some back.
As the judges announced her 10, Ohashi was on the sideline, slapping high-fives as she beamed.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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