Gracie Kramer is a 2019 All-American and one of the best floor performers in the country, a key member of the defending national champions UCLA gymnastics team. Kramer is one of six Bruins who earned regular-season All-American status, but unlike the other five- all former US National Team members, including two Olympic gold medalists- Kramer has had to make a name for herself and learn how to believe she truly belonged at UCLA. The self proclaimed “under-the-radar athlete,” currently a junior, is now excelling both athletically and academically in Westwood and is a leader on and off the floor, inspiring both teammates and fans alike.

Kramer’s journey to becoming a Bruin was unconventional, as she was first set to become a Sun Devil, not a Bruin, committing to Arizona State on a scholarship during the beginning of her sophomore year of high school. After a head coaching change right before her graduation, Gracie realized Arizona State “didn’t feel like home anymore,” and decommitted, left right before graduation with, in her words, “no idea what was going to happen.”

When UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos-Field called, although unable to offer Kramer a scholarship, Gracie jumped at the opportunity, calling UCLA a “challenge [she] was up for”, with her family’s support behind her, excited for both the education and athletics UCLA had to offer.

Gracie Kramer celebrates after performing on the floor exercise for the UCLA Bruins in Westwood, California/UCLA Athletics

After making the decision to come to Westwood, Kramer was immediately thrown into a huge athlete community at UCLA, and admits she initially let it “intimidate [her] more than inspire.” Calling her freshman year a “wake-up call”, Gracie had to adjust to the fewer hours in the gym allowed by the NCAA, and began to learn “how to be an athlete 24-7,” as well as pushing her mental game to new limits, admitting mentally UCLA was “way more intense” than she was used to.

This adjustment year for Gracie was made even more tough by the struggle to make the ever-difficult and deep Bruin lineups, being in and out of the vault lineup and competing a self proclaimed “tragic” floor routine, and after the Bruins finished fourth at nationals Kramer’s freshman year, she headed into her sophomore season with a new drive and confidence.

Being a “champion outside of the gym,” including eating healthy, getting plenty of rest, staying on top of schoolwork to manage stress, and taking care of her body, Gracie began to be a staple in UCLA’s floor lineup. With the help of floor exercise coach Jordyn Wieber, who Kramer says is a “huge inspiration for her”, Gracie’s confidence continued to build, finally beginning to accept that she “belongs in the lineup even as a walk on.” With Wieber continuing to “believe in [her] and push [her] to [her] limits”, Kramer says she began to feel like she was “worth it,” and this newfound confidence reflected in the then-sophomore’s performance, as she helped the Bruins win their sixth national championship title in program history.

Now a junior, Kramer is one of the best floor workers in the country, able to garner consistently huge numbers even from early in the lineup. Now with the maturity she feels like came with “trusting [her] body and team”, Gracie is able to, in her words, “release [her] brilliance,” and has done just that, with the Bruins now relying on her score every week as they look to defend their national championship trophy in legendary coach Miss Val’s final season in Westwood. The junior calls that feeling of being wanted and needed “an incredible feeling,” crediting Wieber again for giving her “the golden ticket” of helping her “acknowledge [she] was good enough to be on the team and in lineups.”

Gracie Kramer performs on the floor exercise for the UCLA Bruins in Westwood, California/Emily Howell-Forbes

Kramer’s 2019 floor routine, which is based off the character of the Joker, is a huge fan favorite, with Gracie’s ability to get lost in a character something that captivates fans around the country. Gracie herself even says that she sometimes “forgets [her] floor routine because [she] is so wrapped up in it,” with getting “completely sold by the character” also something that she feels is “the best way to gain confidence.” The fan support for Kramer this year, which Gracie says “she could never have imagined”, make each routine “feel like a 10.0 because of the people who support [her] and transform [her] gymnastics into something bigger than it is,” although the judges have not awarded her the elusive Perfect 10.0 just yet. The junior doesn’t focus on that perfect number because she does not “want to take away from the amazing moment that [each routine] is,” adding that getting 9.950s is incredible and “just being in lineups is a surreal experience.”

Kramer has taken her unique story on the team and uses it to help inspire the other Bruins who are walk-ons or struggling to make lineups, saying she has “been there” and can “share experiences” and be a leader by example, proving that someone not a JO Nationals champion, Olympian, or top club gymnast can “improve every year and make lineup.” The quote “the best leaders lead from behind and help the weakest link” has been especially influential for Gracie, as her early-lineup position also puts her in a leadership role, helping set off the rotation for the Bruins on floor, one of their strongest events.

Although Gracie has clearly made a name for herself in Westwood and is an important part of the Bruins’ success, she still has individual goals she is hoping to accomplish to aid her team even more. After being recruited primarily as a vaulter, Kramer has “struggled mentally on the event” at UCLA and finally hit a good vault for the Bruins at the Pac 12 Championship. Kramer says she was so happy to finally “be having fun on vault again” and to have “fought through the hard time” that she got teary-eyed, and is excited to now “be there for the team” on another event, a crucial one in their hopes to defend their national championship this month in Fort Worth, Texas.

Gracie Kramer performs on the floor exercise for the UCLA Bruins at the 2018 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Super Six Team Final in St. Louis, Missouri/AP

The Pac 12 Championship was a great meet for Gracie, as she scored a huge 9.950 on floor and a 9.850 on vault, helping the Bruins to a season high 198.4 and defending their Pac-12 Championship title. Kramer believes the team was able to compete so well because of their “Bruin bubble,” saying it was so strong “it didn’t even feel like other teams were there.”

Gracie, as well as the other Bruins, are heading into postseason hoping for a repeat of their national title, although Kramer says she is focusing on what she can control instead of the results. The junior hopes to continue to manage her stress levels and workload to remain physically and mentally healthy, and help her teammates do the same, whether it is working out together or “inviting them over to [her] apartment to hang out in the jacuzzi.” Kramer is ready continue to be her best self for the Bruins, and as the team is gearing up for postseason, it is clear that Gracie’s competition performance and energy will be instrumental to the success sure to come for UCLA on another championship run.

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