No. 15 Cal women’s gymnastics beats Arizona, sets record for best road score

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It’s a good time to be a fan of Cal women’s gymnastics.

On Monday night against Arizona State, for the second week in a row, the No. 15 Bears made history. Cal finished with a dominating team score of 196.900, which was not only the second-highest total in program history, but good enough to set a new record for its best road score en route to defeating the Sun Devils, who had a 194.725.

Sophomore Toni-Ann Williams was special for the Bears all night long, just like she’s been all year. Williams took the opportunity Monday night to showcase her skills, letting her wide range of gymnastics do the talking for her. And the judges were definitely convinced, awarding her with every single event title on the way to a final all-around score of 39.700.

The night for Williams and the Bears began on the uneven bars, which is an event Cal has especially improved in recently. And Monday night wasn’t any different, as the Bears finished with a season-best 49.200. Williams took the event title with a season-best 9.90, foreshadowing the beginning of a near perfect night for her.

“Toni-Ann had a phenomenal night and was on fire from the very beginning,” said Cal head coach Justin Howell. “Her energy and emotion really helped in motivating everyone else.”

The Bears also got a strong bars performance from junior Jessica Howe, who trailed just behind Williams by finishing with a 9.875.

Cal moved onto vault and floor for its second and third events of the night. The Bears performed better on vault, finishing the event with 49.200. This was surprisingly better than the team’s floor score of 49.175, the only event all day in which they didn’t get the better of the Sun Devils, who notched a 49.200.

Williams once again displayed her skill in both these events, ending with a 9.925 on vault and a 9.950 on floor.

The event of the night for Cal, however, came on the one that gave the Bears the most anxiety heading into Monday — the balance beam. But this would’ve been tough to guess by looking at the Bears’ beam performances Monday.

They made their shakiest event, which had been hit or miss for them all year long, look like child’s play. Williams once again led the Bears on beam, taking the event title by finishing with a career-best score of 9.925. Cal also got a reliable beam performance from junior Desiree Palomares, who finished with a 9.875.

In the end Cal shocked everyone by finishing with a team beam score of 49.325, which set a new program record.

Williams’ beam performance marked the end to one of the greatest nights by any Cal gymnast in history, so great that none of her event scores ever fell below a 9.90. And this didn’t go unnoticed by the conference, who awarded her with this week’s Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week award.

The Bears knows that the sky’s the limit right now, especially with Williams leading the helm.

“We have the potential to keep climbing higher, and when we put it all together we’re going to be one of the strongest teams in the country,” Howell said.

Contact Alex Quintana at [email protected]