Toni-Ann Williams makes history for Cal women’s gymnastics in Haas Pavilion

The No. 20 Cal women’s gymnastics team fell to Oregon State on Friday night at Haas Pavilion — the night, however, was all about the sensational freshman Toni-Ann Williams. Williams posted a season-high score of 39.700, which is the highest score ever recorded in Cal history.

“I was so happy that all the hard work I’ve been putting in paid off,” an emotional Williams said after the meet. “I was absolutely overwhelmed — I actually cried right after.”

It was clear from the beginning that Haas Pavilion was in for a historic night. Williams lead her team from the very first event, posting a perfect score of 10.000 on vault. This was the first time ever in Bears’ history that a 10.000 was scored on vault, and only the second time in school history that a perfect score was ever registered.

Third-year head coach Justin Howell was absolutely ecstatic for what his freshman star had just accomplished.

“It feels amazing — week in and week out, she does her job,” Howell said. “She lights up this arena not just with her gymnastics, but with her personality. She commands the stage. When I watch her compete, I forget we’re competing.”

There were several other strong performances put on by the team, most notably from sophomores Desiree Palomares and Dana Ho. Palomares lead the team on the balance beam with a score of 9.900, tying her career best. Ho ended up having a great night as well, scoring a career best of 9.850 on the uneven bars.

The Bears fought neck and neck with OSU the entire night, entering their final event of floor down 147.025 to 147.650. The Bears finished the meet with strong all-around floor performances. Freshman Arianna Robinson helped her team out by posting a career best score of 9.875. But it was once again Williams who surprised everyone, delivering one of the most captivating floor performances in school history. She posted a floor score of 9.950, which was the highest all-around score for that event for the night. Overall, the Bears put on one of the best performances of the season despite falling to OSU, posting a season-best team score of 196.225.

It was clear Friday night that the Bears have one of the deepest teams in recent memory, with lots of potential. They’re continuing to improve as the season progresses, which was clearly seen Friday night: There were a total of six gymnasts who set or matched career highs. The future for Cal certainly looks bright, especially with Williams leading the way. The Bears will be looking to put on another strong performance Feb. 21, when they head up north to compete in a tri-meet against Washington and Seattle Pacific.

Alex Quintana covers gymnastics. Contact him at [email protected]