Cal women’s gymnastics team readies for Pac-12 championships

Rachael Garner/Staff

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The No. 20 Cal women’s gymnastics team has had plenty of success this season. But this will all mean nothing if it fails to perform Saturday at the Pac-12 championships. The Bears will travel to Utah on Saturday to compete in this always fierce competition against some of the top teams in the country, such as No. 6 UCLA, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 13 Stanford, No. 17 Arizona and No. 22 Washington.

“This is something we’ve been preparing for all season,” said head coach Justin Howell.
“There’s going to be a lot of energy.”

The Bears last performed Friday, when they traveled east to compete in a tri-meet against then-No. 21 Southern Utah and then-No. 15 Boise State. The Bears failed to end their regular season on a high note, finishing the night in last place with an overall score of 196.125. Cal, however, had several highs that day, especially when it came to the team’s overall performance on the uneven bars. The Bears ended the night with an overall bars score of 49.225, their best event score of the day.

The main focus for the Bears heading into the Pac-12 championships will undoubtedly be the balance beam, their most unpredictable event of the season. Cal’s inconsistency on the balance beam has hurt it all year long, with its only reliable force being sophomore Desiree Palomares. Palomares has led the team on beam all season, which was clearly seen Friday. Palomares ended Friday’s meet by registering the only substantial balance beam score with 9.800.

The leader for the Bears this Saturday will undoubtedly be freshman Toni-Ann Williams, who is coming off of one of the most dominant seasons in program history. Her highlight of the year came Feb. 13, when the Bears welcomed Oregon State to Haas Pavilion. Williams ended the night with an all-around score of 39.700, the highest score ever recorded in Cal history.

Williams has performed exceptionally well since then, especially when it comes to her performances on the vault and the floor exercise. Williams is currently ranked No. 1 in the Pac-12 when it comes to the floor exercise, with her season high being a near-perfect 9.975. Her most dominant event of the season, however, has been vault, where she has registered a perfect 10 in this event on two separate occasions. Her dominance on vault given her not only a No. 1 vault ranking in the Pac-12 Conference but also a No. 2 vault ranking in the entire nation.

“She’s proven week in and week out that she can handle the pressure, so it’ll be a lot of fun to see her,” Howell said.

This year, the Pac-12 championships will be broken down into two separate sessions for competition purposes, and the Bears will perform in the first. The team with the highest score overall will be named the 2015 Pac-12 champion.

This year, the Pac-12 championships is up for grabs, especially in an unpredictable sport such as gymnastics. Cal will be looking to finish its season with a cherry on top and return to Berkeley with the title of Pac-12 champion.

Alex Quintana covers gymnastics. Contact him at [email protected]