With Cal men’s gymnastics having fallen to Stanford in three different meets this season, No. 23 Cal women’s gymnastics will try to reclaim the upper hand in the storied rivalry as it faces No. 25 Stanford in Palo Alto.
The meet will be the the second time the two teams see each other this season, having faced each other Jan. 8 in the NorCal Classic. The Bears came out on top at that meet, placing first among the five teams competing, while the Cardinal followed right behind with a second-place finish.
The classic marked a big milestone for senior Toni-Ann Williams as she returned for the first time from a season-ending Achilles injury that she suffered at the beginning of the 2017 season.
Cal will be hoping to build upon its high-scoring performance in their loss against then-No. 4 UCLA, in which they finished with a 197.225, reaching above 197 for just the fourth time in school history. Williams finished the meet with a 39.600 and the all-around title, which garnered praise from head coach Justin Howell.
“Toni-Ann Williams is a beast, and is incredibly gifted with so much physical strength,” Howell said. “She has developed a lot of maturity and great leadership, and she is someone who the younger athletes can really look up to. I enjoy just taking a step back and watching her perform whenever she goes out there.”
The Cardinal will counter the Bears with a high-flying senior of their own in Elizabeth Price. At the NorCal Classic, Price recorded a perfect 10 in bars — the first Cardinal to do so since 2006 — on her way to the all-around title finishing with a 39.650. Price is regarded as one of the top all-around gymnasts in the country, and she will be a key factor if the Cardinal are to upset the Bears this weekend.
Howell also mentioned that the team has been working on landing cleanly and nailing dismounts in each of their events.
“In practice we’ve been really focusing on landing,” Howell said. “Nailing dismounts and having good body posture can make a big difference on the judge’s score in each event.”
Cal came into practice this week largely focusing on the mental aspect of the game. Howell emphasized that a key part of competing involves mental scripting.
“There’s a lot of waiting in gymnastics,” Howell said. “You can find yourself standing on an island, with your mind wandering and not staying anchored. We try to focus on our keywords which keep us mentally anchored, and we did a great job of this this past weekend against UCLA.”
Kellan Grant covers women’s gymnastics. Contact him at [email protected]