Undefeated UCLA gymnastics boasts high-scoring trio of all-around competitors
Junior Margzetta Frazier (left), freshman Chae Campbell (middle) and senior Nia Dennis (right) have each competed in the all-around this season for UCLA gymnastics. (Kanishka Mehra/Photo editor)
By Coral Smith
Feb. 12, 2021 3:00 p.m.
The Bruins have multiple gymnasts who can do it all.
No. 10 UCLA gymnastics (3-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has taken advantage of its gymnasts’ experience on all four events to start the season unbeaten, helping to account for the gap left by the graduation of two all-around competitors at the end of the 2020 season.
UCLA sent out three gymnasts to compete in the all-around in Wednesday’s meet versus BYU and two against Arizona and Arizona State. In contrast, the team’s three opponents combined have only had two gymnasts accomplish the feat in meets against UCLA.
Junior Margzetta Frazier has returned to the all-around lineup after participating a handful of times last season, and has been joined by senior Nia Dennis and freshman Chae Campbell. Together, the trio has combined for 13 of the Bruins’ 19 scores of 9.900 or higher this season.
Frazier said while competing in the all-around is difficult, many collegiate gymnasts are used to it because of their experience competing at the elite level. All three of UCLA’s all-around gymnasts fall under this umbrella.
“On the junior Olympic level, being an all-around competitor is the norm, it’s rare to be a specialist,” Frazier said. “A lot of us here, we grew up doing all four events, but coming to college, things definitely change.”
Frazier said in reality, most of the challenge of competing all-around at the collegiate level is due to the limited training time the NCAA allows, which can make it more difficult to make time to perfect four separate routines.
“That’s one of the things that makes NCAA gymnastics just as challenging in some areas as elite gymnastics,” Frazier said. “You have to do your basic skills absolutely perfect with limited time to practice those things, especially as an all-arounder.”
In addition, the switch to competing in collegiate gymnastics can have a physical impact on athletes, since they must adjust to competing almost every week during the season. Elite and club gymnasts usually compete at most every three to six weeks, so the NCAA schedule can take its toll on gymnasts doing all four events.
“Coming in here and doing the all-around and competing week after week, it is a shock to the system both physically and emotionally to be like ‘OK, you’ve got to go again, here’s another meet, and another, and another, week after week,” said coach Chris Waller.
Managing the physical strain of the all-around competitors will be especially important in the coming days as the Bruins enter a 10-day stretch in which they’ll have two more meets, starting with Sunday’s meet against Washington after a three-day break.
Though Dennis won Wednesday’s all-around crown against BYU with scores of at least 9.800 on each event, the senior said it’s likely she and the other all-arounders will limit themselves to just a couple events in the next week, especially since she herself is nursing a minor injury.
“I definitely think I’m going to need to take a break at some point,” Dennis said. “I’m going through a little ankle problem. Just a little tweak, nothing major, but I’m just going to give it a rest for one meet and then be right back.”
As if three all-around competitors isn’t enough, Waller said he’s also debating whether senior Pauline Tratz might compete in all four events in UCLA’s meet versus Washington on Sunday. This would be Tratz’s first outing in the all-around during her time in Westwood, but she has experience at the elite level in all four events from her time with the German national team.
“The thing with people going all-around is we’re ready to jump in whenever we’re needed, and the team knows they can rely on us for any event that they choose,” Frazier said.