Gymnasts retire when athletes in most other sports are just maturing. By age 15, the only pinnacle left to many is the Olympic Games.
Stacy Baker and Monica Mayes of Cal State Northridge are 21 and 22 years old. Old maids by gymnastics standards.
They aren't going to any Olympics. But they are competing today in the NCAA Division II west regional championships at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Both will have to win one of the four individual events or the all-around with a 9.0 or better, or rely on CSUN in the team competition, to reach the national championships on April 4 and 5 at the Air Force Academy.
That is no small task for the Lady Matadors. Favored to win this weekend is the defending regional champion Seattle Pacific, ranked No. 2 in Division II.
Susan Rouse, CSUN's second-year coach, is laying her bets on Baker and Mayes.
Mayes is ranked No. 5 in the all-around and Baker No. 6. The comparisons end there.
Where Mayes is the power gymnast, Baker is the dancer, Rouse said.
Mayes excels on the vault, Baker on the uneven parallel bars and the floor exercise.
In the nine meets this season, Mayes and Baker have switched leads four times in the all-around. Competition between the two, however, is friendly.
"I'm really happy for her when she wins," Baker said. "I don't have any feelings like it should have been me. Being that we're on the same team, it makes us stronger."
With Mayes, the attitude is mutual.
"Stacy's there when you need her," Mayes said. "She's everyone's friend. She's very supportive."
They agree that CSUN's success in the regionals may hang in the balance of the beam. The routine on the four-inch-wide beam is considered to be the most difficult event.
"To do well this weekend, we have to stay on the beam," Baker said. "Everyone can. It's a matter of concentration. Seattle Pacific is solid on the beam. A team that's solid on beam is a team that is going to be good.
"The event takes so much concentration, you can't be off at all."
The distractions are very real.
During her beam routine at CSUN's last home meet, Mayes heard the clicking of a camera and broke her concentration. She missed the beam and came crashing to the floor.
The Lady Matadors no longer have room for error, Baker said. And she wishes her intensity was shared by all the CSUN gymnasts.
"I was talking to one of the girls yesterday, and she was saying, 'Well, this is my last workout,' " Baker said. "I thought, God! you can't be like that. I want to go to nationals really bad. I don't want to hear that kind of talk. I think everyone wants to make it but they need to be in the right frame of mind."