Between The Bars

April 25, 2005

Back from the National Championships. We had a great week ofgrowth and revelation for our team. Every day we saw more of our team'scharacter come out in positive and 'refusing to lose' ways. When it was allsaid and done, it just wasn't our night. But the enthusiasm with which ourteam kept fighting was exciting to be a part of and extremely promisingfor 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 ofcompetition was intense with so many teams fighting to get into the SuperSix and so many great athletes vying for the top individual all-aroundspots. 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 amonth 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 wasone 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 apromising start at the Super Six to have our first two athletes go out and hit better thanthey've hit all season, especially on our first two events. It was alsopromising and a lot of fun to watch our freshmen thrive in the heat of thecompetition. 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 acompetition. We call her our 'track star'. Chris has had a ballteaching her that vault (tsuk layout full) the last two years. It broke myheart that Christie Tedmon fell on her last two beam performances ofher career. Her only mistake was going too hard, not wanting to holdback 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 Maloneyall did great routines. I hope I can speak for the entire gymnasticsfamily, regardless of school affiliation, that it was a well-earned andfitting grand finale for Maloney to go out in pure Maloney fashion - 'PlayBig. Play Hard. And dazzle the crowd.' I've been a Kristen Maloney groupiesince she first stormed the U.S. Gymnastics scene many years ago. A dayhasn't gone by since she reported to us in the fall of 2000 that I haven'thad at least one 'Maloney moment' - where I quietly watch her train andthink 'She is indeed a living legend in our sport.'

I asked her two weeks ago why she wanted to compete the double layoutfull-out on floor. Chris and I didn't want her thinking that she had toupgrade her already packed floor routine for a shot to win the NCAA Floortitle. She said if she was only concerned about winning the title she wouldcompete the routine she's competed all season for sake of consistency. Herreason for wanting to compete the skill was that she wanted to compete, onelast time, the most fun skill she's ever performed.

My husband summed up what Kristen has meant to our sport best. As he saidin a toast to her Saturday night, 'If we could give Kristen's heart to everystudent-athlete at UCLA, we would never lose another game inany sport.'

From Chris, Marshall, myself and our staff - we are all so proud of everyteam member this season. It was a tremendous year of personal growth foreveryone, coaches included. We haven't 'arrived' but wecertainly took the necessary steps to be able to do so next season!

~miss val



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