Cal women’s gymnastics readies for Pac-12 Championships

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On March 11, the Cal women’s gymnastics team surprised everyone by finishing with a new program-high 197.500, defeating UC Davis and Sacramento State in the process. The Bears aren’t satisfied though, and want to make even more history this Saturday when they travel up north to compete in the Pac-12 Championships.

Cal is entering this weekend as the No. 3 seed, ahead of Oregon State but behind Utah and UCLA. But the Bears can end the night and return home as conference champions if they’re able to put up a similar performance to last week’s.

Last season, then-freshman Toni-Ann Williams led the Bears to a sixth-place finish in the conference and took home Pac-12 Freshman of the Year when it was all said and done. This season she has only continued to progress and get better as a gymnast. She matched her own all-around program record of 39.700 Feb. 15 against Arizona State, setting a new career high on beam with a 9.925.

But unlike last year, the Bears are entering the postseason with plenty of other weapons, taking some of the pressure off Williams’ back.

Junior Zoe Draghi is one of those Bears. Draghi has progressed tremendously this year, especially when it comes to floor. Her newfound brilliance was displayed in last week’s meet, when she finished with a career-high floor score of 9.925.

The Seilnacht twins, Sofie and Sylvie, have also been valuable additions to the team this year. Both of them have far exceeded expectations, performing well on events that no one thought they’d even perform on. Less than a month ago against Utah, Sofie performed competitively on bars for the first time in her collegiate career. She ended the night with a bars score of 9.875, the best score of any Bear that night.

The Bears are entering the Pac-12 Championships fully aware that they can defeat No. 2-seed UCLA, after doing so Feb. 1. But it’s the top seed, Utah, that will likely give the Bears problems this weekend.

Utah is a team that has legitimate weapons on all four events. The Utes are coming off an impressive 197.675-197.125 win against then-No. 9 Georgia, a night that saw Utah claim its sixth all-women’s sports attendance title by attracting a stunning average crowd size of 14,928 fans. It was the performances of Utes such as senior Breanna Hughes that led to sold-out crowds week after week, and she rarely disappointed. Hughes had one of the best meets of her career against the Bulldogs, finishing with a perfect 10.0 on floor, and tying her all-around career high of 39.650.

Against opponents such as this, Cal will need to be better than ever before if it wants to make this historic season even more special.

“Last meet was truly a team effort, I was happy with how everybody stepped up when called upon,” said Cal head coach Justin Howell. “And that gives us a lot of confidence heading into the postseason.”

Contact Alex Quintana at [email protected]