Rocklin athlete stepping up to the next stage
ROCKLIN– A lifetime of practice and the support of family, friends and coaches have prepared Rocklin High senior gymnast Emma Andres to join the gymnastics team of her dream college, University of California Los Angeles.
UCLA associate head coach Chris Waller reached out to Andres in the summer before her junior year to offer her a spot on the team, which is the best in the nation after winning the 2018 NCAA Women’s National Championship.
Andres, who has wanted to attend UCLA since she was 10, took only one week to consider before accepting the offer.
“The thing that influenced me most to go there was the team,” Andres said. “It reminds me of my team back here, like that dynamic where they all are goofy and happy… it’s just about working as a team and really putting your best effort in.”
College gymnastics scouts have begun their searches at the middle school level looking for talent. So for young gymnasts like Andres, acceptance into a college team can be the culmination of years of calls, emails and videos that showcase their gymnastics skills.
“I started actually looking at colleges in seventh grade and trying to figure out where I wanted to go,” Andres said. “(Seventh grade is) early, but it’s kind of necessary.”
Andres first met Waller at her national gymnastics competition, in which she had earned the spot of alternate. He invited her to a summer gymnastics camp at UCLA, and within a week after the camp offered Andres a position on the team.
Andres plans on majoring in environmental science and is interested in other athletic activities, such as surfing and triathlons. She looks forward to both the academic and the athletic challenges, which UCLA will present.
This drive to tackle new challenges has been fostered by gymnastics.
“It’s such a challenging sport and it’s not just challenging physically; it’s challenging mentally,” Andres said.
She has faced these challenges alongside family, friends and coaches who have pushed her to face her fears.
“When I was younger, I was really afraid of a skill,” she said. “It’s called a squat-on, and it was just jumping from one bar to the other bar. Even though I was terrified of it, I worked through it with my coaches and my parents.
“There’s a lot of things like that. (I’ve had) a good support system.”
Andres’ support system has allowed her to feel accepted as an individual. She said because of her energy as a kid, gymnastics was a perfect outlet for her.
Andres appreciates that her gym, Byers Gymnastics Center, understood her high-energy personality.
“My coaches would be giving me corrections and I would be bouncing in the background,” said the future Bruins’ athlete.
“They understood me and let me do that because they knew I wasn’t being disrespectful. I just had trouble focusing and needed to let that energy out, so that helped me a lot.”
Now, Andres will apply that energy to her studies and athletic endeavors as a college student. Having taken an non-traditional route to plan her future, Andres can now take a break from the application process while most high school seniors haven’t yet chosen a college for which to apply.
But next fall, she will be leaving for her new home in Los Angeles.
“I’m going to have to work really hard for it because they just won nationals,” Andres said. “That’s a lot to live up to and I really hope I can live up to that. They’re a really awesome team.”