The No. 18 Cal women’s gymnastics team will head up north Saturday to compete in a tri-meet against No. 21 Washington and Seattle Pacific. The Bears are coming off one of their best performances of the season, which took place Feb. 13 when they went up against Oregon State.
The Bears ended their last meet with an overall team score of 196.225, which set a new season high. There were several strong performances on display that night, including ones from sophomores Desiree Palomares and Dana Ho. Palomares led the team on the balance beam with a score of 9.900, tying her career best. Ho also had a career night, setting a new personal best on the uneven bars with a score of 9.850.
There are still many areas the Bears could improve in, especially when it comes to the team’s consistency on the balance beam.
“We’ve gone meet after meet and had to count a fall or mistake on the beam, so that’s really been a key focus of ours in practice,” said head coach Justin Howell. “Just tightening up our mental game on that event.”
Of course, the key piece for the Bears on Saturday will undoubtedly be freshman Toni-Ann Williams, who is coming off the best performance of her career. Williams posted a season high score of 39.700 in the team’s last meet against the Beavers, which is the highest score ever recorded in Cal history. This was highlighted by a perfect score of 10.000 on vault, which was only the second time a perfect score has ever been recorded in school history.
The historic performance put on by Williams earned her two prestigious honors in the same week: Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week and her fifth straight Pac-12 Freshman of the Week. Williams is the first-ever gymnast in conference history to hold both of these awards concurrently. The achievement of these two awards certainly shows how crucial she is to the overall structure of the team.
“She has been one of the strongest and the most consistent freshman in the conference week in and week out,” Howell said. “And I’m just so happy that the Pac-12 is taking notice of her accomplishments.”
Washington and Seattle Pacific will be looking to stop this momentum when Cal heads up north. Washington, in particular, has several strong gymnasts that could give Cal some problems, especially when it comes to the Huskies’ Allison Northey, a junior. Northey had a career night herself on Valentine’s Day, when the Huskies competed against No. 3 Utah. Northey won the all-around title with a score of 39.475, setting a new career high. She also matched her personal bests with a score of 9.900 on both the uneven bars and balance beam.
Cal will need to perform at its best Saturday in order to beat No. 21 Washington and Seattle Pacific.
“Our focus heading into Washington is getting our team score up, reaching our full potential and applying what we’ve been doing in the gym to competition,” Williams said.
Alex Quintana covers gymnastics. Contact him at [email protected]