No. 20 Cal women’s gymnastics finishes in 6th place at Pac-12 Championships

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The best teams in the history of sports all have one thing in common: Their greatness is defined by championships. The No. 20 Cal women’s gymnastics team tried to make history of their own Saturday, as they traveled to Utah to compete in the 2015 Pac–12 Championships.

Cal’s inexperience, however, was too much to overcome, and the Bears finished the night in sixth place with an overall team score of 196.150. The night instead belonged to the home team, the University of Utah, which won its second consecutive Pac–12 championship with a final team score of 198.150.

The Bears’ main contribution came from freshman Toni-Ann Williams; however, she failed to have the spectacular performance everyone expected. Williams registered an all-around score of 39.325, which was highlighted by a strong score of 9.925 on the floor exercise. But this was the only substantial performance she put up all night, as all her other event scores fell below a 9.900.

Williams’ inexperience looked like it may have finally caught up with her Saturday, and for the first time all year she looked like a freshman. This was especially seen on her first event, the uneven bars, where she made a rare mistake by forgetting to step on to the low bar.

“Toni had a great meet, but I wouldn’t say that it was her best meet,” said head coach Justin Howell. “She had an uncharacteristic mistake on bars, but she fought to hang on, which was really impressive.”

Still, the historic year Williams had didn’t go unnoticed by the Pac–12 conference, which honored her Saturday as the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. Williams was awarded this prestigious honor for having one of the best years in conference history, highlighted by her six Pac–12 Freshman of the Week awards.

The standout performance for the Bears came from sophomore Desiree Palomares, who came out and performed when the Bears needed her most. Palomares posted a strong score of 9.850 on the balance beam, floor exercise and vault. Her most impressive performance came on the balance beam, where her 9.850 led the team.

“Desiree had a great meet tonight, she’s been really consistent for us this year,” Howell said. “I’ve been very pleased and proud of her performances all season long.”

The Bears just didn’t look as solid and tested as Utah. The Utes were led by four different seniors, with the main contribution coming from Georgia Dabritz. Dabritz finished as the all-around champion with a final score of 39.775.

But Cal proved over the weekend that it has a significant amount of potential, with plenty of room to grow. It was the inexperience of Cal that got the better of them Saturday night; however this will definitely change in the years to come.

“I think one of the most exciting parts of our program right now is that were very young, and for them to be in a meet like this was very motivating,” Howell said. “They were able to see tonight what it takes to be at the top.”

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