No. 16 Cal women’s gymnastics celebrates senior day with a matchup against No. 1 Oklahoma

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Daniel Kim/Staff

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The Bears were clad in their sparkling home leos, and Cal head coach Justin Howell was sporting a pair of argyle blue and yellow Cal golf pants, which the eight seniors made him promise to wear for the festivities. And just like those pants, No. 16 Cal women’s gymnastics was loud, celebratory and fun to watch in its senior day meet against No. 1 Oklahoma.

Led by seniors Emily Richardson and Desiree Palomares, the Bears posted a 196.775 against the toughest team in the nation. While that score was not enough to overtake the mighty Sooners, it has bumped Cal’s current Regional Qualifying Score of 196.4. The Regional Qualifying Score, or RQS, is an aggregate average score that the NCAA uses to seed teams for the postseason.

So while the scoresheet may have shown Cal versus Oklahoma, the Bears were truly competing against themselves, and that was not an easy competition to win. Their season has been plagued by injuries, and Sunday was no exception.

“We were shoved for lineups like crazy,” said head coach Justin Howell. “We weren’t exactly sure what we were going to do until the last minute. But they’re confident, they’re quick on their feet, and those changes didn’t rattle them.”

It was on floor that those changes were most evident. Junior Yuleen Sternberg was slated to compete, replacing weekly presence Palomares, who was not supposed to compete on floor due to a minor neck injury. Instead, sophomore Sofie Seilnacht, who had not competed on floor all season, came up second but fell on her last tumbling pass. Because of the greater difficulty of her routine, Palomares was later placed in the lineup to make up for the lost points from Seilnacht’s fall.

Floor also included an emotional leadoff performance from senior Charlie Owens. Freshman Mariah Peterson tied her career high on floor with a 9.85, and junior Arianna Robinson delivered once again, putting up a 9.875. Finally, senior Zoe Draghi, who had added a more difficult tumbling pass to her routine because of Seilnacht’s fall, came in clutch in the anchor spot with a 9.925.

On beam, it was yet another record performance for the Bears, where they tied the second-highest beam score in school history with a 49.325. Richardson had her season high, with a team-best 9.90. Senior Jessica Howe, who has not seen the lineup all season because of a back injury, put up a 9.825.

“The goal was to get her in the lineup tonight,” Howell said. “And she was a counting score. So many people stepped up in so many areas — I couldn’t be more proud.”

On bars, the Bears celebrated with junior Alicia Gallarzo when she made her jaeger, a skill that she has fallen on in competition for the past few weeks. Sternberg and Richardson led the team with a pair of 9.85s, and the Bears combined for a 49.125 rotation.

Vault saw the debut of freshman Rachel Mastrangelo, who put up a counting score of 9.775.  Senior Amber Takara had her season high, a 9.800, on the event.

“I thought the environment here was great tonight,” Howell said. “We had a good fanbase, and the band and the energy was awesome. Great celebration for our seniors.”

Adriana Ghiozzi covers women’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected].

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