Pauley Pavilion always pulses with loud energy during UCLA gymnastics’ home meets. But when Margzetta Frazier is on the floor, she commands the attention. Her steady poise lives in the choreography as it flows from tumbling passes to dance.
“Marz brings an element of performance that I’ve never seen before in gymnastics,” UCLA senior floor specialist Chloe Lashbrooke said. “And it’s just incredibly special to share the floor with her.”
In front of the crowd, routines are painless. Before and after, there’s significant pain. As a redshirt senior, Frazier’s body has endured enough physical wear to tape her ankles, even for uneven bars routines with minimum impact.
Still, her scores remain high. Frazier has hit every routine of her career and averages 9.850 in floor exercise and 9.864 in uneven bars this season.
“How do you lock into being really confident and aggressive and working hard and doing all those things while managing your adult body?” Bruins first-year coach Janelle McDonald said. “The people that do it the best in the NCAA are people that are able to manage that the best. I think that’s why she’s had so much success.”
The fifth-ranked Bruins’ senior meet against Iowa State (8-6, 0-4 in the Big 12) is at noon Saturday, which will also be the final dual meet of the season at Pauley Pavilion. Frazier, 23, is the only redshirt senior on the team among four other seniors and has experienced not only injury, but also the emotional strain of a coaching and culture change at UCLA (7-4-2, 4-1-2 in the Pac-12).
Frazier was limited in the 2020 season due to an ankle injury, but in the next season drew the country’s attention with a Janet Jackson-themed floor routine that landed her on “Good Morning America” and other national entertainment shows, as well as a FaceTime call from the pop superstar.
The 2022 season was tumultuous due to a reported incident of a racial slur and bullying within the team. On top of that, Frazier had to redshirt the season due to a foot fracture. In May, McDonald was brought in as a new head coach to replace Chris Waller.
Frazier, with seniors Emma Andres, Paige Hogan, Kalyany Steele and Lashbrooke, became a pillar within this season’s culture change, which focused on unity.
“It’s not about being the loudest leader or being the most forceful leader or being the most correct leader,” Frazier said. “It’s about being the best teammate and the best Bruin you can possibly be.”
Frazier has all her teammate’s routines memorized and knows what words each of them needs to hear before going out to compete. She knows who likes to dance before performing and who wants to be left alone, and who likes to have an audience of teammates in front of them if they’re on balance beam.
Frazier has also advocated for diversity and inclusion within gymnastics and college sports as a whole as a member of the Pac-12 Gymnastics diversity and inclusion organization, G-PAC, and was a co-founder of the UCLA Black Student-Athlete Alliance.
While she does dedicate her time to others, she also has to manage herself, especially physically. She says her ankles are healing, but it’s required a lot of work and careful planning.
“Every turn that I take must be intentional and must be correctly done and done safely,” she said.
She landed “short” during the Super 16 meet in Las Vegas earlier this season, which caused pain in her ankles and was a sharp reminder to be cautious. Now, she works closely with the medical team and doesn’t practice high-impact events like vault or floor during the week, and the Bruins trust her ability to hit the routine come meet time.
Although Frazier’s body is nearing its physical limit within gymnastics, her pain is alleviated. In the floor routines in which unaffected grace extends through her fingertips, the pain is nonexistent.
“I wanted to come back this year and try my best to give myself the ending that I felt like I deserved,” Frazier said. “My goal this year was to just enjoy my gymnastics one last time. I’ve never had so much fun in the gym in my life.”
UCLA vs. Iowa State When: Noon Saturday
Where: Pauley Pavilion
TV: Pac-12 Network