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Pauline Tratz to return for fifth season with UCLA gymnastics

UCLA gymnastics senior Pauline Tratz announced Thursday she will return for a fifth season with the Bruins. Tratz earned First-Team All-Pac-12 recognition on floor in 2021. (Kanishka Mehra/Photo editor)

By Sam Settleman

May 29, 2021 2:47 p.m.

This post was updated May 31 at 8:14 p.m.

With the balloons popped and the confetti cleared, Pauline Tratz laid on the floor of Pauley Pavilion, soaking in the magic one last time.

“Bye, Pauley,” Tratz said, as she walked off the gym floor after the Senior Day meet.

But it was only a temporary goodbye for the UCLA gymnastics senior, who announced Thursday she will take the extra year of eligibility granted to all student-athletes and return for a fifth season with the Bruins.

The announcement came just two days after fellow senior Kendal Poston declared her intent to return for the 2022 season.

“We just wanted to help each other out to make the best decision for ourselves,” Tratz said. “I’m just happy that both of our best options were coming back. I have her as my fifth-year buddy, which I’m really, really excited about.”

While Poston said taking the fifth year was in the back of her mind for much of the season, Tratz required more time before committing to another year in Westwood.

Coach Chris Waller said it took weeks of conversations with the team before Tratz ultimately settled on her decision.

“She’s a huge planner, but she also lives very much in the moment,” Waller said. “I do think in her heart of hearts she was pretty clear from the outset, but she’s not one to make a decision lightly.”

After helping the German National Team qualify for the Olympics in 2016, Tratz opted to leave her home in Karlsruhe, Germany, to join the Bruins. She became a regional vault champion and earned Second-Team All-Pac-12 honors on floor in her freshman season in 2018, adding a 9.825 on vault and a 9.8875 on floor in the NCAA Championships.

But Tratz – who plans to return to Germany this summer and see her family for the first time since September – never thought her stay in Westwood would last longer than four years.

“In my mind, I was like, ‘Four years and then I’m going to go back to Germany,’” Tratz said. “It is a bigger move for me because I’m not just leaving UCLA, but I would also leave the country going home. I’m glad that I took the time. As soon as I made the decision official for myself in front of my team, I felt so much better and so good and I knew it was the right decision.”

2021 was a career year for Tratz, who earned First-Team All-Pac-12 honors on floor and claimed a share of the conference title on the event with a career-high-tying 9.950 at the Pac-12 championships. The fourth-year contributor hit all 23 of her routines on the season.

Waller said Tratz was more dedicated this year than she’s ever been, adding that she became especially proficient at learning to overcome small mistakes.

“One of the things that (Tratz) really learned to master this year is she doesn’t make gymnastics bigger than it is,” Waller said. “If she made a mistake, it no longer felt like it was a personal failure or kind of a judgment against her. She really learned this year to keep things in perspective and keep it light, while keeping the standard super high.”

As the lone international student on the team, Tratz capped off her senior season by becoming the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year behind a 3.86 GPA in communication studies.

Waller said the standards Tratz sets for herself and her mentality in the gym carry over to her teammates.

“Leadership-wise, what I love that (Tratz) did this year is she brought this super upbeat energy to every situation,” Waller said. “Even in practice, if she was having a rough day, she never lowered the expectation for herself.”

With a retooled roster in 2021, Tratz hopes the Bruins can repeat the magic of her freshman year when UCLA won a national championship.

“I already see ourselves ending with a national championship and also rounding up the career with another natty,” Tratz said. “Starting it off with a win and ending with a win would be obviously awesome.”

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