As practice ended on Thursday, the coaches left Yates Gymnasium, but a few gymnasts remained and continued to practice by themselves. Sophomore Samantha Peszek worked on the bars while fellow sophomore Olivia Courtney stayed on the floor and finished stretching.
The team poured their hearts into their practices as well as their matches. Perhaps this is only appropriate as they prepare for the second annual Heart of a Champion meet. The No. 7 UCLA gymnastics team (2-0) faces No. 19 San Jose State (2-1) as the teams raise awareness and funds for Camp del Corazon ÂÂ”“ a non-profit organization that provides a summer camp for children with heart disease.
The Bruins fell from their No. 1 spot, even though they are undefeated, as ranking is based on the team’s season average. However, their season average of 196.375 is still ahead of this week’s foe’s, as the Spartans currently hold an average of 194.3.
The Bruins will host their second home meet at their temporary home for the season, Collins Court in the John Wooden Center, Sunday.
“It’s (really) different, but it’s a lot more fun because there’s a huge crowd all the time since the place is so small,” Courtney said. “Plus, it’s fun to be able to see our friends in the crowd and be able to point them out.”
Though Courtney likes being away from what the gymnasts call the “fishbowl” that is Pauley Pavilion and being closer to the fans, Peszek misses the big stage that Pauley provides.
“There’s nothing like competing in a big arena,” Peszek said. “Pauley has so much history and so many memories, so it’s an honor to be competing in there. I’m excited to go back there next year, but a little change in competing in Collins Court is never a bad thing.”
Peszek has been performing as if she were on that big stage since the season started. She won the all-around in the Bruins’ first two meets. However, she is not thinking about that. Her focus is getting a win for the team.
“I don’t think about the all-around because that’s for the indiviual,” Peszek said. “Throughout the season it’s all about the team.”
The Bruins performed well on the road last week during their meet versus Berkeley, and they will have to keep up their hard work and determination in order to maintain their top-10 ranking and to keep their coach pleased.
“Our expectations are a lot higher this year,” coach Valorie Kondos Field said. “We have a lot of returning athletes. We also have a lot of girls that are back that weren’t competing last year because of injuries.”
With their hearts now set on the victory, Kondos Field believes that her Bruins will be prepared to take on any opponent.
“Regardless of how many or few people are in the stands, or the ranking of the people we’re playing, we have to play our match and just do what we do best.”