UCLA Gymnastics Hires Cal Assistant Janelle McDonald as Next Head Coach

Three weeks after the job was advertised, the Bruins have found their next team leader.

UCLA Gymnastics announced Monday night that it would hire Janelle McDonald as the program’s head coach. McDonald has spent the last four seasons as an assistant to Cal and helped guide the Golden Bears to their first-ever Pac-12 regular-season title earlier this spring.

McDonald’s arrival comes less than a month after coach Chris Waller stepped down on April 19, marking the end of his three-year tenure in charge of the Bruins. Athletic Director Martin Jarmond and Senior Associate Athletic Director Dr. Christina Rivera were responsible for finding Waller’s replacement, and they did so by looking north and hiring one of the top uneven bars coaches in the nation.

“I’m honored and so grateful to join the UCLA Athletics family! From the moment I walked onto campus, I could feel the Bruin pride and tradition of excellence around every corner,” McDonald said in a statement released by the team. “I want Martin Jarmond and Dr. Thank you to Christina Rivera for entrusting me with my vision and passion to lead this program into its next chapter.”

Led by McDonald’s, Cal finished seventh in the 2021 NCAA Finals — along with the best finish in the program’s history. McDonald also helped Maya Bordas win the Golden Bears’ first-ever NCAA singles title that season and led a bars rotation that finished the regular season at No. 1 in the country and set the NCAA record with a team score of 49.825 set.

With McDonald as Cal’s Bars head coach, the 2022 program boasted six top 15 performers in the region and three All Pac 12 honorees in that discipline. The best seven uneven bars results in Cal’s program history all came with McDonald on the team, and she also helped produce six All-Americans for the event.

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A certified gymnastics coach since 2001, McDonald spent the first 15 years of her career working at several top camps in the western region. In her journey from Legacy Elite Gymnastics to Desert Lights Gymnastics, McDonald earned several individual awards and was on several widely acclaimed collaborators before earning her bachelor’s degree from Arizona State in 2011.

Beginning with the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in 2012, McDonald coached all four events at the elite, optional, and mandatory levels, mentoring and directing several athletes who would go on to compete in NCAA action. One of those young gymnasts was Madison Kocian, a UCLA grad who won gold and silver medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics before hitting two perfect 10s on parallel bars for the Bruins.

Kocian, UCLA viral star Katelyn Ohashi and legendary coach Valorie Kondos Field were among those who praised McDonald in statements from the school, each highlighting the confidence and energy they expect her to bring to the program.

“Janelle has been exemplary in connecting with 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 the Bruin legacy and the commitment to excellence that this program deserves as one of the best in the country. I’m very confident in Janelle’s ability to lead the Bruins and I’m delighted to welcome her to Westwood.”

McDonald will become the second head coach Jarmond has hired since taking over the athletic department in July 2020, and joins new women’s soccer coach Margueritte Aozasa, who arrived from Stanford in December to replace Amanda Cromwell.

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