It all comes down to this for the No. 20 Cal women’s gymnastics team. Either they do well at the NCAA regionals Saturday and move on to the NCAA championships, or the season is over. Cal will have tough competition this weekend as it goes up against No. 3 Utah, No. 10 Georgia, No. 15 Boise State, Utah State and BYU. Despite their strong opponents, however, the Bears will have one significant advantage — they will compete at home at Haas Pavilion.
“Getting to compete at home is a huge advantage for us. The girls are very excited to compete in front of their friends and family,” said head coach Justin Howell. “The comfort level that they have at Haas Pavilion should help them be at ease when they’re competing.”
The format for the NCAA regionals is very simple. At the end of the night, the top two teams and the top two all-around competitors will move on to the NCAA championships. The goal of every gymnast will be to make it to Fort Worth, Texas, the location of this year’s NCAA championships.
The Bears last competed March 21, when they traveled to Utah to compete in the Pac-12 championships. Cal finished the night with an all-around score of 196.150, finishing in sixth place. It was the inexperience of the Bears that finally caught up to them that night, although they still had several highlights.
Cal’s best event of the night came on the floor exercise, which has been its strongest event of the season. The Bears were led on floor by standout freshman Toni-Ann Williams, who scored a 9.925 on this event. They also got a strong performance from freshman Arianna Robinson, who finished with a score of 9.900. These two led the Bears to an all-around floor score of 49.325, but the team’s low scores on its other events prevented it from taking home the title.
“Were trying to get to a place where every single person on the team trusts one another and the work they’ve put in,” Howell said.
Everyone’s eyes will undoubtedly be on Williams this Saturday, as she is arguably having the best season in school history. Williams has broken several school records this year, with her most impressive accomplishment coming Feb. 13, in the middle of the season. That was the night she broke the school’s all-around individual record with a score of 39.700, setting a new bar for Cal women’s gymnastics.
The accomplishments of Williams have not gone unnoticed, as she was honored last week as a three-time all-American by the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women. She was awarded all-America first-team honors in vault and floor, as well as second-team honors in the all-around. But for Williams, team accomplishments have always been more important than individual ones. Still, she will likely be the Bears’ best shot to head to Texas.
“She’s been looking great in practice, and I fully expect her to be the consistent competitor that she’s been all season,” Howell said.
Alex Quintana covers gymnastics. Contact him at [email protected]