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UCLA gymnastics seniors strive to uphold Bruin legacy as postseason begins

One of six seniors for UCLA gymnastics, Pauline Tratz described how gratitude, power, happiness and celebration create a culture unique to the Bruins that gives her and her teammates motivation. (Elise Tsai/Daily Bruin staff)

By Sam Settleman

March 20, 2021 12:22 p.m.

The Bruins are trying to uphold a legacy, according to senior Kendal Poston.

Amid a down year statistically for No. 13 UCLA gymnastics (6-2, 4-2 Pac-12), Poston said the team wants to ensure it preserves the Bruin legacy – what she described as “one of the most unique pairings of both discipline and joy and just pure love for life.”

Senior Pauline Tratz said she and the team derive motivation from that goal as physical and mental fatigue start to set in toward the end of the season.

“I have a goal with the team together, especially after the past weeks, to keep the Bruin legacy going,” Tratz said. “And that’s just something so big and that’s something so special, I feel like it’s hard to not be motivated to do that. Those are the things that remind me to keep going.”

Poston and Tratz were two of six seniors celebrated during March 13’s Senior Day meet. In their freshman seasons, the two were a part of the squad that won the 2018 NCAA championship, UCLA’s last title. Now, the four-year Bruins have become two of the team’s most consistent performers, combining to hit 32 of 33 routines this season.

Tratz – who hails from Germany – said the culture of UCLA gymnastics made an instant impact on her attitude regarding the sport.

“For me, honestly, the Bruin legacy is a feeling that I started experiencing once I came here,” Tratz said. “It’s a feeling of gratitude, power, happiness, celebration and just people being together celebrating what they get to do and what other people have done in the past.”

While the 2021 seniors have spent four years in the Bruin culture, the longest-tenured member of the team is coach Chris Waller. Despite being in just his second year leading the program, Waller is in his 19th year with the team in various coaching roles.

A former UCLA All-American gymnast in his own right, Waller said the legacy of his program does not depend on wins and losses but rather the character of his student-athletes.

“In the simplest terms, the UCLA legacy is about a team filled with women who have integrity, who are team players, and who do big, beautiful gymnastics,” Waller said. “We can have that same pride and that same team love whether we’re going 197.100 or whether we’re going 198.100. That’s really the legacy.”

Spending two years apiece under the direction of each of the team’s last two head coaches, Tratz said UCLA gymnastics will always stay true to its legacy despite changes to the coaching staff. The senior added that she wants to use the final weeks of the season to keep teaching the freshmen what it means to be a Bruin.

Poston – who did not compete officially in her freshman season – said being on a team of “amazing women and also an amazing coaching staff” has inspired the way she lives her own life.

“(The team is) doing great things every single day, and you kind of just fall into the same rhythm,” Poston said. “It becomes really, really easy to just pick up the same way Kyla Ross would pick up her day, and pick up the same way Madison Kocian and Gracie Kramer would go for their days – and it just becomes your routine.”

Beyond influencing each other, Waller said the Bruin legacy is about inspiring the next generation.

“One of the big legacies of our program is that life is not about perfection, it truly is about the journey and improvement and intention,” Waller said. “It’s important to all of us that we uphold that legacy because it’s important for us and it’s also important for all the little kids that watch us and see us perform and compete.”

Now, the six UCLA gymnastics seniors are set to graduate as their final season comes to a close – despite the extra year of eligibility granted to all athletes this season. But, Poston and Tratz said they’ve done all they can to impart the Bruin legacy onto the next generation of gymnasts.

Poston, who said her time at UCLA has been a dream come true, reflected on what it has meant to be a Bruin.

“I know going into the real world, I’ll never again have 20-plus teammates and staff who want what’s best for me sometimes more than I even want what’s best for myself,” Poston said. “That is something that I wish everybody got to experience, and that is what UCLA has provided for me. I know this team will carry on that legacy.”

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Sam Settleman | Sports editor
Settleman is currently the Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and gymnastics beats. He was previously an assistant editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
Settleman is currently the Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and gymnastics beats. He was previously an assistant editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
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