Cal women’s gymnastics leap 10 spots in national rankings with pair of victories

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The Cal women’s gymnastics team wasn’t the only thing jumping this weekend. Behind a strong, busy weekend in which they took first place in a quad meet and defeated UC Davis on the road, the Bears leapfrogged 10 spots in the national rankings from No. 20 to No. 10.

The two meets marked the first time in head coach Justin Howell’s tenure in Berkeley that the Bears competed twice in the same weekend.

“It was a new experience,” Howell said. “We have not done a double weekend in my time at Cal, but we just tried to treat it like a training weekend. There’s always an emotional high in competition, which almost makes it more mentally draining than physically draining.”

The Bears were just sharp enough to edge out No. 22 Minnesota, Sacramento State and Alaska Anchorage on Friday night, and it was freshman Kyana George who proved to be instrumental in their victory.

George took second place in the all-around event with a score of 49.350, only trailing Gophers star freshman Lexy Ramler, who took her seventh all-around title of the season.

Senior Toni-Ann Williams mostly used the weekend to rest, competing in three events Friday before sitting out the entire meet against the Aggies.

Changes in the lineup provided freshman Emi Watterson with an opportunity to make her Cal debut. Watterson solely participated in the bars on both days, recording a 9.800 in the quad meet and a 9.850 against the Aggies.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to have that kind of depth,” Howell said. “It’s great to see a freshman who’s from another country be able to step in and do her job for the team.”

The two meets represented a big weekend for senior Alicia Gallarzo as well, who matched her career high on floor with a 9.875 in the quad meet and took the event title in the beam event with a 9.900 score at UC Davis.

After a loaded weekend, the Bears will have a two-week break before they head to Tucson, Arizona, for the Pac-12 Women’s Gymnastics Championships on March 24.

“We’re going to take time to go back to the basics and fundamentals,” Howell said. “It’ll be nice to take a step back and clean things up so that we can avoid small deductions. We’re going to use it as a recovery period and focus a lot on our fitness and getting healthy.”

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