Three weeks after the position opened, the Bruins found their next team leader.
UCLA Gymnastics has announced that it will hire Janelle McDonald as the program’s head coach on Monday night. McDonald has spent the past four seasons as Cal’s assistant, helping bring the Golden Bears to their first title in the Pac-12 regular season earlier this spring.
McDonald’s came less than a month after coach Chris Waller resigned on April 19, ending his three-year term at the helm of the Bruins. Athletic Director Martin Jarmond and Senior Assistant Athletic Director Dr. Christina Rivera were tasked with finding Waller’s replacement, and they did so by looking north and turning into one of the best barbell coaches in the country.
“I am honored and so grateful to have joined the UCLA Athletics family! From the moment I stepped onto campus, I could feel Bruin’s pride and tradition of excellence around every corner, ”McDonald said in a statement issued by the team. “I would like to thank Martin Jarmond and Dr. Christina Rivera for entrusting my vision and passion to translate this program into its next chapter.”
Under McDonald’s leadership, Cal came in seventh at the 2021 NCAA Finals – tied for their best goal in program history. McDonald also helped Maya Bordas win her first individual Golden Bear title in the NCAA that season, leading the rotation of bars that finished the regular season in 1st place in the country and equaled the NCAA record with a team score of 49,825.
Since McDonald was the head coach of Cal’s bars, the program had six of the top 15 performers in the region in 2022 and three All-Pac-12 winners in the discipline. All seven of the top scores for bumpy beats in Calina’s program history came with McDonald’s staff, and she also helped produce six All-Americans at the event.
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McDonald has been a certified gymnastics coach since 2001, and has spent the first 15 years of her career working at several top campsites in the West region. Moving from Legacy Elite Gymnastics to Desert Lights Gymnastics, McDonald picked up several individual accolades and was among several widely acclaimed employees before earning a bachelor’s degree in Arizona in 2011.
Starting at the 2012 World Olympic Gymnastics Academy, McDonald has coached all four competitions at the elite, elective and mandatory levels, while mentoring and leading several athletes who will continue to compete in NCAA action. One of those young gymnasts was Madison Kocian, an UCLA alum who won gold and silver medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics before setting two perfect tens on the bars for the Bruins.
Kocian, UCLA virus star Katelyn Ohashi and legendary trainer Valorie Kondos Field were among those who praised McDonald in statements given by the school, each highlighting the confidence and energy they expect it to bring to the program.
“Janelle has been exemplary in connecting and developing young people at all levels of her coaching career,” Jarmond said in a statement. “Her enthusiasm and energy are contagious. She understands and respects Bruin’s legacy and the commitment to excellence that this program deserves as one of the best in the country. I am extremely convinced of Janelle’s ability to lead the Bruins and I am delighted to welcome her to Westwood. ”
McDonald becomes the second head coach Jarmond has hired since taking over the athletics department in July 2020, joining new football coach Margueritte Aozas, who came from Stanford to replace Amanda Cromwell in December.
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