The No. 18 Cal women’s gymnastics team made a statement Saturday in Seattle, Washington, by finishing on top with a season-high team score of 196.600, outperforming the Huskies and Seattle Pacific. This is the fourth highest team scored ever recorded in program history, and it all happened away from home.
The Bears were lead early on by sophomore Amber Takara, who set a new career high score of 9.875 in Cal’s very first event, the uneven bars. Sophomores Charlie Owens and Dana Ho also performed well on the bars, each putting up the same score of 9.850. These strong performances pushed the Bears to an early overall bar score of 49.075, tying with Washington as each team headed to its next event.
The second event for Cal was the balance beam, which — going into Saturday — had been the team’s most inconsistent event of the season. The Bears opened up this event with the emotional return of Isabelle Castillo, who had been out for more than a year with a wide range of injuries. Castillo completed her long-awaited return by putting up a balance beam score of 9.725. Castillo’s return, however, had a much bigger impact than any score could show, because she motivated her teammates to perform better.
“That lead-off position is very important on beam — you want to start off with a routine that somebody’s going to hit,” said head coach Justin Howell. “I think Isabelle brought a sense of calm. Her drive and determination really rallied a lot of confidence for the team.”
One of those motivated to perform well after witnessing Castillo’s comeback was sophomore Desiree Palomares, who posted a career-high score of 9.900 on the balance beam. The Bears had some of the best balance beam routines of the season, finishing with an event-high score of 48.875.
If the balance beam is Cal’s weakest event, then it is clear its strongest event is the floor exercise.
Cal registered an overall floor score of 49.375, which is the second highest floor score recorded in school history. This score was highlighted by the sensational floor performances of freshmen Arianna Robinson and Toni-Ann Williams. Robinson posted a floor score of 9.900, second only to the 9.950 that Williams posted in this event. In fact, the Bears performed so well on floor that their lowest score of the night was a strong 9.825, which was scored by two different gymnasts.
Williams ended the night as the overall leader of the tri-meet, finishing with an impressive score of 39.375. This comes as a surprise to no one, especially because she was coming off a week in which she was named both the Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week and Freshman of the Week. Owens finished in second place with an overall score of 39.225. This was highlighted by her impressive score of 9.850 in three events: the uneven bars, vault and floor.
The Bears put on one of their best team performances of the season in Washington. It’s clear that each gymnast on this roster is capable of surprising the audience on any given night. And this team seems to be practically unbeatable when it’s firing on all cylinders. The Bears’ next test will be when the team travels east to face Pac-12 rival Arizona.
“The confidence that we got from this last weekend in Washington is really going to show up in practice and hopefully translate into a great competition in Arizona,” Howell said.
Alex Quintana covers gymnastics. Contact him at [email protected]