The No. 20 Cal women’s gymnastics team competed in the NCAA regionals at Haas Pavilion on Saturday as it tried to qualify for the NCAA championships in Forth Worth, Texas. The Bears welcomed some of the best teams in the country, which included No. 3 Utah, No. 10 Georgia, No. 15 Boise State, Utah State and BYU.
Cal ended up finishing the night in third place with a final all-around team score of 196.000, barely missing the cut as one of the two teams to make it to Texas. Georgia and Utah ended up taking first and second place, respectively, earning the elusive tickets to the NCAA championships.
But the Bears didn’t end the meet empty-handed. Freshman star Toni-Ann Williams ended the night with a final all-around score of 39.275, finishing the meet as the third-best all-arounder. Still, she was still able to qualify for the NCAA championships because the top two gymnasts above her, Utah’s Georgia Dabritz and Corrie Lothrop, already qualified with their team. She had several rare mistakes throughout the night, however, which she acknowledged after the meet.
“It wasn’t my best performance. There was definitely places where I could’ve improved,” Williams said. “But all in all, I’m super excited to compete in the NCAA championships.”
The Bears opened the meet on the floor exercise, which has been their strongest event of the season. Williams led the Bears on floor with a score of 9.875. Freshman Arianna Robinson also performed well on floor, finishing with a score of 9.800. The Bears, however, were unable to put up any other substantial scores, largely because of ankle injuries to sophomores Desiree Palomares and Zoe Draghi, which held them out of this event. This significantly hurt the Bears’ chances of making the cut, as they finished with a final all-around floor score of 48.875.
“The true test of a team is when you face adversity, and we faced a lot of adversity tonight in one of the most important meets of the season,” said head coach Justin Howell. “But (the team) showed a lot of grit and heart, and that’s all we can ask.”
The Bears moved to the vault exercise next, and it was there where they really showed what they were made of. Cal had strong all-around performances on vault, but no one was better than Williams. Williams had one of her best vault performances of the year, with a score of 9.950. This was to the disliking of many home fans, who emphatically screamed chants of “10” from the stands. Still, her 9.950 earned her the all-around vault title for the meet, the first time since 1991 that a Cal gymnast has taken a regional vault title.
Cal ended the night on its third and fourth events, the uneven bars and the balance beam, respectively. Sophomore Amber Takara tied for second on the bars with a score of 9.900. Cal would finish the uneven bars with a score of 49.150 and the balance beam with a score of 48.700.
The Bears are certainly proud of the season they had, and they should be. Cal ended the night by sweeping the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women for every single award in its region. This was highlighted by awards to Williams for gymnast of the year and to Howell for regional coach of the year.
“We had an amazing season — we continued to get one day better in every competition throughout the year,” Howell said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way our season ended.”
Alex Quintana covers gymnastics. Contact him at [email protected]