Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships: Samantha Peszek confident headed into final Pac-12 meet
SALT LAKE CITY – Samantha Peszek can’t begin to tell you everything she’s learned from her five years at UCLA.
“Oh gosh, that would be like years and years of an interview,” Peszek said with a laugh.
It’d be a challenge for anyone to cover the entire career of the 23-year-old Indianapolis native. In 2008, she was a member of the United States Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Team. As a freshman at UCLA, she won the NCAA balance beam title. Throughout her time as a Bruin, she’s added 10 All-American honors, four Scholastic All-America awards, and 12 Pac-12 weekly awards.
Most recently, she was named as a finalist for the AAI Award, which is awarded each year to the nation's top senior gymnast.
“It’s really incredible. I feel like I’ve really been given all the opportunities gymnastics has to offer," she said. "I did the Elite program, I got to go to the Olympics and do that whole bout, and also come to college – which a lot of people don’t know, is almost a completely separate sport. Different rules, different philosophies…so to experience kind of everything that the sport has to offer…it’s such an honor.”
This fifth and final year has been a great one on the floor for Peszek, but it’s one that almost didn’t happen. She was set to possibly walk away after the 2014 season, but decided to return for one last go-around. It has paid off for Peszek both as an individual and as part of her team. She leads the Bruins with 16 wins and has scored at least a 9.900 in 19 of her 32 events.
“To come back and kind of have arguably my best year in college gymnastics, it’s just so much fun. It’s kind of like the cherry on top of the cake.”
Returning to the Huntsman Center for possibly her final meet is significant for the senior. This was where UCLA won their only championship with Peszek on the team, and she’s hoping the arena brings them some luck again.
“That was probably my favorite meet. We were seeded fourth, and we didn’t have that great of a competition," she said. "As a team we came together and fought until the end, and we ended up winning that meet.
"That probably sticks out as one of my most exciting times at UCLA. It was the most passionate and determined we’ve ever been a team, so I’m hoping that since it’s here again that we can recreate the same thing.”
Those memories aren’t the only thing Peszek is taking with her. Her time as a Bruin student-athlete helped make her a more well-rounded person.
“Miss Val [Kondos], and Chris [Waller], and Randy [Lane], they do such a good job of nurturing us, not only as athletes but as women in making sure that we’re well-balanced in our life, not only in the gym, but athletically and academically as well. Everything that I’ve learned at UCLA, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.”
Taking her place on the floor for what could be her final meet as a Bruin, Peszek is relaxed and ready to take it all in.
“I set a bunch of really specific goals for myself at the beginning of the season, and I think when you want something so bad, it kind of crumbles. You just kind of forget everything else and you have a tunnel vision to try to accomplish that. So I kind of dropped that," Peszek said.
"I just want to do the best that I can. I’ve prepared all that I can do, I’ve done all the routines. I’m more than prepared, so I just want to go and enjoy it and have fun and do it for my team.”