Any time the No. 1 team in the country comes to town, it’s bound to be exciting. Any time the No. 1 player in the country comes to town, it’s a spectacle not to be missed. This Sunday, the No. 17 Cal women’s gymnastics team will meet both.
No. 1 Oklahoma didn’t end up on top by any sort of a fluke. The Sooners, who are averaging a 197.865 on the season, have been leading the pack for eight straight weeks. As a team, they lead the nation on floor, bars and beam, and they sit third on vault. In case you couldn’t guess, they also have not lost a meet this season, and they are the defending national champions.
Great gymnastics is done by great gymnasts, and Norman, Oklahoma, has no shortage of those either. All eyes have been on freshman Maggie Nichols this season, who is currently No. 1 in the individual all-around. She hardly has a weak spot, sitting in the top-5 on each event. Yet while Nichols has been the focus of much attention, senior Chayse Capps has been quietly dominating as well. Capps is within the top-25 on all four events, and she is third nationally in the all-around.
For the Bears, a win against the Sooners is, quite frankly, unlikely. At this point in the season, however, the win-loss record is not necessarily the focus. With the postseason just around the corner, Cal will have its sights set on improving its Regional Qualifying Score, which is the NCAA’s mechanism of seeding teams for regionals.
Just last week at UCLA, the Bears bumped their RQS from a 196.000 to a 196.250 after notching their highest road score of the season. That score, a 196.800, came despite a fall on bars and some bobbled vault landings.
“We’ve got to continue to tighten up on our landings,” said head coach Justin Howell. “You look back through the season at every single meet and you think of all the tenths and half-tenths that are given away on landing deductions. If you can even cut that in half, you’re adding a whole point back into some scores.”
A beam performance like the one at UCLA would certainly behoove the Bears when they meet Oklahoma. For the second time this season, Cal posted one of the top-five beam scores in school history, this time with a 49.325.
Sunday’s meet at Haas Pavilion, as the last home meet of the season, will also be a celebration for Cal’s eight seniors. Of those eight, the ones likely to be featured in the lineup are Desiree Palomares, Emily Richardson, Charlie Owens, Zoe Draghi and Amber Takara.
“As each meet passes, I’m certain that (the seniors) are reminiscent of their careers and the journey that they started when they were three or four years old,” Howell said.
As the regular season comes to a close, Cal’s seniors, and the entirety of the team, will leave it all out on the floor against college gymnastics’ best team.
Adriana Ghiozzi covers women’s gymnastics. Contact her at