Margzetta and eMjae Frazier mark the end of an era at the final Pac-12 gymnastics championships

Margzetta Frazier used to feel badly that her younger sister eMjae had followed her into gymnastics.

With a four-year age difference between the two, eMjae naturally gravitated to whatever her big sister was doing. But this was different. Gymnastics was all-encompassing and left little time for anything else. eMjae loved to play soccer and go to public school, and Margzetta often wondered if the sport was truly what eMjae wanted to be doing.

Margzetta couldn’t help but feel guilty.

But she doesn’t anymore. Today, it would be impossible to think of NCAA gymnastics without both of the Frazier sisters. Margzetta, 24, is a sixth-year senior at UCLA, four-time All American and the 2021 Pac-12 uneven bars champion. eMjae, 20, is a sophomore at California, the recipient of four Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week honors this season and currently the No. 2-ranked all-arounder in the country.

This weekend, for perhaps the final time, Margzetta and eMjae will compete against one another at the final Pac-12 championships in West Valley, Utah. It will mark the end of an era for the Pac-12 Conference, which will disband at the end of the academic year due to realignment. And it’s the end of a special chapter for the Frazier sisters, one they weren’t even sure would be possible.

“I can’t think about it too much because I will get emotional,” Margzetta told ESPN last week. “I’ll just have to think about it as a regular competition or like us just training at Parkettes [their elite gym in Pennsylvania]. eMjae is my favorite gymnast. She’s beautiful and strong, she’s flexible and artistic, she’s a beautiful lion. She’s the full package.

“Watching her thrive, and to see all the hard work and sacrifice pay off, it’s been incredible. It’s only because I’ve had these extra two years we’ve been able to compete against each other in college, and it just feels like such an honor to be out there with her.”

For much of her life, eMjae couldn’t help but follow in her sister’s footsteps — and it was something she did proudly. eMjae loved training alongside Margzetta, and then watched her reach some of the highest levels of the sport as Margzetta made the national team and won a silver medal in the all-around at the 2018 Birmingham World Cup.

eMjae valued Margzetta’s feedback, support and guidance and considered her almost like another coach. And while she loved soccer, a knee injury during her freshman year of high school forced her into early retirement from the sport. She never felt forced into gymnastics, and the decision to focus only on gymnastics paid off — eMjae also made the national team and represented the United States at the 2021 world championships.

But when it came to picking a college, eMjae wanted to pave her own path. She loved watching Margzetta compete for UCLA, but wanted to find a place that felt unique for her.

“I never even considered or thought about going to UCLA,” eMjae told ESPN. “I automatically was like, ‘I want to do something different and go my own way.’ I wanted a good school with good academics and good gymnastics and Berkeley had it all. And spending time with the team, and feeling their energy and how they treated each other, it felt like a family. Knowing how far away I would be from home, it was important I had people that were like family and that I could rely on. The team culture really drew me here.”

While eMjae said her overall happiness and well-being was the biggest factor, she was impressed with the progress she had seen the program make as well. In 2021, the Golden Bears reached the semifinals at the NCAA championships for the first time in three years, and she felt she could help the team do even more.

But she had no idea just how much it would achieve during her first two seasons.

“I knew there’d be a chance to help create history here, but I didn’t realize how much history,” eMjae said. “I had no idea we would break all these records and do all these things for the first time.”

During her freshman season in 2023, Cal set program highs for team total and on beam and won its NCAA regional for the first time in school history, finishing the season ranked No. 7 nationally. eMjae became the first Cal gymnast to receive a 10.0 on floor and earned All American honors on the event.

And this season has been even more impressive. The Golden Bears have spent most of the season ranked within the top 3 nationally and won the Pac-12 regular-season title outright for the first time. eMjae broke her own record — set earlier this season — for the highest all-around score in program history (39.825) while leading the team to its highest score (198.400) during a win at UCLA in February.

According to Margzetta, no one cheered louder for eMjae during the meet than her.

“I always stop what I’m doing to watch and support her,” Margzetta said.

But the achievements and results aren’t what stand out most to eMjae about the day. The meet took place on Margzetta’s birthday, and their parents and younger sister Billie flew out from New Jersey to attend and celebrate. (Their younger brother Tytan is a freshman on the track team at Maryland Eastern Shore and was not able to make the trip.) Because Margzetta was often at national team training camp prior to college, the family hadn’t been together for her birthday in at least seven years, and both sisters called it special.

Due to a foot injury — the third of her college career — Margzetta was competing exclusively on bars as she has done for most of the season.

“I usually stay in the ‘Bear Bubble’ during meets but I had to go watch her on bars because I knew it might be the last time I could be out on the floor watching her compete,” eMjae said. “I couldn’t miss that opportunity. I love her gymnastics. Even though these last two years have really been a bonus, it’s going to be weird without her.”

eMjae has taken advantage of every opportunity to do that this year. When UCLA competed at Stanford in early March, eMjae attended the meet as a fan with some of her teammates, despite having a meet the next day.

On Saturday, eMjae and Margzetta will be competing against each other again. Neither are sure they will have a chance to watch the other due to the format of the meet, and both are focused on helping their respective teams win the last Pac-12 title.

For surging Cal, it’s a chance to win its first conference championship and continue its incredible season. eMjae believes that could be just the start to a special postseason.

“This conference has so much history, it would be amazing to go down in the books as the last Pac-12 champs, in addition to the last regular-season champs,” eMjae said. “But [our] team is really good, we’re no longer the underdogs. We know what we’re capable of. If we continue to trust ourselves and translate what we do at practice in the gym to competition, I think we could win Pac-12s and then go all the way. I really do.”

For 19-time Pac-12 champion UCLA, it’s an opportunity to build momentum at the right time on an up-and-down season. The Bruins are currently ranked No. 11, but had a stunning 198.550 total at their last home meet on March 16. With her foot finally feeling healthy, Margzetta competed on floor for the first time, scoring a career-high 9.975. She also earned a season-best 9.95 on bars.

It was an emotional, and fitting, end to her career at Pauley Pavilion.

“I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of Margzetta’s journey,” UCLA head coach Janelle McDonald told ESPN. “She has a passion and love for her team and our sport that makes her an incredibly special athlete and teammate. The style she performs with epitomizes UCLA gymnastics, all while being uniquely Marz.”

Margzetta couldn’t help but tear up when she discussed what the team, school and fans have meant to her.

“There are so many special people that have helped me along this journey,” Margzetta said. “I feel like I’ve always had a big mouth and stuck out like a sore thumb wherever I went, but still, I’ve always had the undying support no matter where I went or what I did. I’m so proud of myself and what I’ve been able to do and for not giving up. I have no regrets. Not a single one. I would do it all again, exactly the same.”

And there’s perhaps nothing she’ll savor more than the two bonus years she never thought she would have competing at the NCAA level alongside eMjae.

“I love that I’ve been able to have trained for so long with eMjae and compete with her,” Margzetta said. “It feels like it can’t be real life. It’s like it was written in a book. I’m so grateful.”

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