Gymnastics to celebrate seniors during final regular-season meet
Senior Kendal Poston is one of six members of UCLA gymnastics’ senior class that will be celebrated in the upcoming Senior Day meet. (Lauren Man/Assistant Photo editor)
By Coral Smith
March 12, 2021 12:55 p.m.
The Bruins will end their season celebrating Pride and their graduating seniors.
No. 14 UCLA gymnastics (5-2, 4-2 Pac-12) will host its final meet of the regular season when San Jose State (2-1) comes to Pauley Pavilion on Saturday. In addition to the competition marking their second annual Pride Meet, the Bruins will also be celebrating the six members of their senior class.
Coach Chris Waller said the team is especially grateful to have the opportunity to celebrate its seniors after last year’s senior meet was canceled just days before because of COVID-19.
“Last year, we were 48 hours from being able to have a senior meet, and that got cut short, so being able to do this is a huge win for us all,” Waller said. “Just reminding our entire team of that fact is something that’s touched everybody’s heart, and has allowed our team to dig in a little deeper for the seniors.”
In addition to the emotional component of the meet, this is also UCLA’s final regular-season competition. Senior Pauline Tratz said after the Bruins struggled to finish strong during their meet against No. 6 California, the team has come together to work on its energy for this weekend.
“I definitely was discouraged after the last meet, but I think this was honestly helpful for the whole team because we all collectively felt it,” Tratz said. “We were upset, and we know now we have to change something.”
An unexpected benefit of the timing of the meet is that UCLA will have the opportunity to honor one of its seniors from last year, Mercedez Sanchez.
Sanchez transferred to San Jose State to compete as a graduate student after the 2020 season and had never had the opportunity to compete a counting routine for the Bruins. Now a part of the Spartans’ bars and beam lineup, Sanchez will have a chance Saturday to compete in Pauley Pavilion for the first time in her career, albeit for the opposing team.
“(Sanchez) is someone who really embodied what UCLA is about,” said senior Kendal Poston. “For her to finish off her regular season meet in Pauley Pavilion with us as our senior meet is something that I don’t think could have worked out any better.”
Also on the minds of UCLA’s seniors is the question of whether they will choose to return to the team next season, as the NCAA gave athletes across all winter sports another year of eligibility due to the pandemic.
While Tratz said she knows it will be a long and hard decision over whether to return, for now she and her teammates just want to put their energy into finishing the season strong.
“Obviously I’ve thought about it, but … I want to focus on this year, want to celebrate this team right now, want to celebrate my fellow seniors as good as I can,” Tratz said. “I want to say I’ll go with my gut feeling, but that’s not me so I’ll probably plan out five different papers and talk to so many people and then decide.”
Poston said that either way, she will treasure her years with the UCLA team, as she was able to move up from only competing in an exhibition in her freshman year to a staple of the Bruins’ vault and beam lineups.
“Coming in as a freshman I really didn’t think I’d compete at all, I really was lacking in my confidence,” Poston said. “I’ve checked every box, I’ve hit every goal, I feel more than proud of myself and just so grateful for this experience.”