UCLA gymnastics hires Cal assistant coach to lead program

(Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)

Former Cal gymnastics assistant Janelle McDonald has been named the new head coach at UCLA.

She replaces Chris Waller, who led the Bruins’ program for three seasons before resigning at the end of the 2022 season. He had replaced Valorie Kondos Field, who led UCLA to seven national championships and 22 NCAA Super Six appearances.

“Janelle has been exemplary at connecting with and developing young people at every level of her coaching career,” athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a statement. “Her enthusiasm and energy is contagious. She understands and respects the Bruin legacy and the commitment to excellence this program deserves as one of the best in the country.”

McDonald joined the Cal staff in 2018 and since then twice has been named Regional Assistant Coach of the Year. She coached individual NCAA champion Maya Bordas, the team’s first.

Under the guidance of McDonald, who specialized in the uneven bars, Cal tied a 17-year-old NCAA record on bars in a meet against UCLA with a 49.825 mark. The Bears finished the 2021 regular season ranked first in the country on uneven bars.

The Bears won their first-ever Pac-12 regular season title in 2022 and matched their highest-ever NCAA finish in 2021 in seventh place.

“My experiences in Berkeley and with the student-athletes on the Cal gymnastics team have pushed me to become a better version of myself and have prepared me to take on this new opportunity,” McDonald said in a statement. “I cannot wait to get started with our team and build with them a culture that will honor and continue the great history of this program.”

Famed UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi, who trained at WOGA where McDonald once coached, called the change “exciting.”

“I’ve known Janelle for quite some time now. It’s been amazing watching her grow as a coach and seeing the way she can add to a college team,” Ohashi said. “Change is always exciting, and so is a new perspective. I can’t wait to see where she leads this team.”