Tuesday, November 30

Chae Campbell, Pauline Tratz earn Pac-12 distinctions for UCLA gymnastics

Freshman Chae Campbell (right) earned Pac-12 Gymnastics Freshman/Newcomer of the Year honors while senior Pauline Tratz (left) was named the Pac-12 Gymnastics Scholar-Athlete of the Year. (Left to right: Kanishka Mehra/Photo editor, Ashley Kenney/Assistant Photo editor)

Despite failing to claim the Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year award for the first time in three years, the Bruins took home two of the five Pac-12 2021 women’s gymnastics awards Saturday. The accolades, as voted on by the league’s head coaches, were announced shortly after the completion of the Pac-12 championship.

Pac-12 Gymnastics Freshman/Newcomer of the Year, Chae Campbell

The last Bruin to win Pac-12 Gymnastics Freshman of the Year became one of the most decorated gymnasts in program history.

This year’s recipient of the award, Campbell, is on a similar trajectory. Campbell led her team in event wins through the Pac-12 championships and is the first UCLA gymnast to rank in the top-20 in the all-around as a freshman since Olympic gold medalist Madison Kocian did so in 2017.

Current undergraduate assistant coach Kyla Ross won the award in 2017 after accumulating four perfect 10s and winning two event titles at the NCAA championships during her freshman season. Ross would go on to become a national champion, two-time Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year and 24-time All-American.

Campbell has competed in the all-around in all but one meet this season, piling up 13 event wins and capturing a share of the Pac-12 floor title with a 9.950 in her postseason debut. The two-time Junior Olympic National Team member tied the nation’s highest all-around score by a freshman this season with a 39.625 against California on March 6.

“We knew she was going to be good, but she exceeded expectations on so many levels,” said coach Chris Waller.

The freshman’s floor routine has earned praise as one of the best routines in collegiate gymnastics this season. Campbell ranks No. 17 in the nation on floor with an average score of 9.916 and has earned a score of 9.925 or better in five consecutive meets.

Junior Sekai Wright, the Pac-12 vault champion, praised Campbell’s confidence as a performer.

“Honestly, she looks like a senior to me,” Wright said. “She loves to do this – she loves to perform. It’s her thing. I’m just really excited and happy that she’s getting rewarded for it. She’s worked so hard.”

In her UCLA debut, Campbell suffered a fall on bars. Since then, the Carrollton, Texas, native has hit 31-of-32 routines and recorded 23 scores of 9.850 or better.

Waller – who described Campbell as “one of the most coachable people that’s ever been on the team” – lauded the freshman’s ability to adapt to a new environment during a pandemic and still have the motivation to get better every single week.

“When we started out the season, she had full confidence in herself that she could hit 4-for-4,” Waller said. “But now, as each week goes by, you can feel how it’s, ‘Yeah, 4-for-4, but what can I do? Can I push into that 9.950, 9.975 and 10 range?’ And that’s where she’s living now – pushing that envelope and seeing how close to that 10 she can get.”

Senior Pauline Tratz added that Campbell’s entertaining performances on floor will help keep the Bruin legacy alive.

“I feel like she is the definition of UCLA gymnastics,” Tratz said. “I’m really, really happy that she joined this team and can contribute to keeping the legacy alive.”

Pac-12 Gymnastics Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Pauline Tratz

For the third time in the last four years, the Pac-12 Gymnastics Scholar-Athlete of the Year is a Bruin.

Tratz has been recognized by the conference for her academic ability in tandem with her gymnastics achievements. Former UCLA gymnasts Christine Peng-Peng Lee and Kocian won the award in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

Tratz – a three-time Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American who was named to UCLA’s All-Academic Team in 2020 – said she appreciates the recognition for her accomplishments outside of the gym, despite not realizing that there was such an award.

“I honestly didn’t even know that (award) really exists,” Tratz said. “It’s just nice to also be recognized not only for gymnastics but also for other things that are outside of gymnastics.”

The fourth-year Bruin is in the midst of a career year, hitting all 19 of her routines so far in 2021. Tratz has also scored at least a 9.900 on floor in five of her last six meets.

Despite the Pac-12 championship Saturday occurring in the wake of finals week, Tratz scored a season-high 9.900 on vault in addition to earning a share of the Pac-12 floor title with her second 9.950 in the last three weeks on the event.

Set to graduate with a communication degree, the German native holds the highest cumulative GPA on her team – a 3.86 – and has received Director’s Honor Roll distinction every quarter she has attended UCLA.

Waller said investing in student-athletes outside of the gym is one of the cornerstones of his program.

“It’s a full package,” Waller said. “Anybody who wants to come to UCLA and be on the gymnastics team, it’s about that recruit investing in themself as a whole person. Obviously, (at) the number one public institution in the country, your education is going to be amazing.”

Tratz now adds Pac-12 Gymnastics Scholar-Athlete of the Year to a four-year resume that includes regional vault champion, Pac-12 floor champion and 2018 NCAA team champion.


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.

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