No. 9 Cal women’s gymnastics takes 3rd place at Pac-12 Championships

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Rachael Garner/File

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When the spotlight is lit and the stage is set, stars are expected to shine — just as the No. 9 Cal women’s gymnastics team did at the Pac-12 women’s gymnastics championship event.

This past Saturday, the Bears headed to McKale Memorial Center at the University of Arizona to compete in an eight-team battle for the conference title. When it was all said and done, the Bears walked away with a third-place finish, finishing just behind champion No. 3 UCLA and runner-up No. 4 Utah.

Nearly two weeks after their most recent competition, the Bears came out strong in Tucson, Arizona, holding the top spot at the end of the first rotation — the beam. Seniors Toni-Ann Williams and Alicia Gallarzo joined junior Sofie Seilnacht in each recording a 9.90 individual score, which put the Bears on target to set a new program record in the event.

With a team score of 49.400, a milestone that had never been reached by a Cal team, the beam event would finish as the team’s highest scoring rotation of the night.

A new program record on the beam, however, was not the only milestone met during the weekend, as head coach Justin Howell became the first Cal women’s gymnastics coach to reach 100 wins.

Despite a strong overall showing in the next two events, the floor and vault, the Bears found themselves having lost their lead and sitting in third place. A perfect performance from UCLA senior Christine Peng-Peng Lee propelled the Bruins into first place with one event remaining, while the Utes had taken a hold of second.

Shortly thereafter, a fall by Seilnacht on the bars forced an unexpected lineup change for Cal. Freshman Emi Watterson was subbed in for Seilnacht and managed to record a career-high score of 9.875 in her surprise appearance.

In the end, Watterson’s score led all Bears in the event, which would help them finish with an overall team score of 196.950 — their fifth-highest score in program history.

Cal’s third-place finish helped it retain a national top-10 ranking heading into the NC Women’s Gymnastics 2018 Selection Show. A couple of days following the meet, the Bears were told that they will be heading to University of Utah on April 7 to compete in the Salt Lake City Regional section. Utah will also be competing in the same region; a total of seven Pac-12 schools earned postseason bids.

Kellan Grant covers women’s gymnastics. Contact him at [email protected]