This weekend, the top gymnasts in the nation went head-to-head to compete for the chance to earn the title of the best in collegiate gymnastics. While neither team victories nor titles were in the cards for the Bears, there were plenty of individual accomplishments to be celebrated.
Cal’s women’s team failed to advance after its third-place finish at the regional championships, but powerhouse freshman Milan Clausi was able to punch her ticket to the NCAA championships as a vault specialist — the lone Bear competing earned a 9.825 on her Yurchenko 1.5 to end the season and hit all 15 of her competition vaults.
Throughout the season, Clausi was a dominant force on her team, pushing Cal’s program to add difficulty to its routines and consequently giving the Bears a deep and talented roster to use to their advantage. Hitting every single routine she competed this season did not go unnoticed — it earned her the title of Pac-12 Freshman of the Week four times as well as the honor of Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. Clausi has been able to earn scores of 9.9 or above on vault, beam and floor; during the season, she scored two 9.95s on vault, making her one of the top athletes in the event in the western conference and the top freshman in the field. For all of her high-flying vaults, Clausi was named an All-Pac-12 second team vault member.
In her first season at Cal, Clausi has helped the Bears break program records and achieve success all the way through the postseason. In the next three years, she will be one to watch on the women’s collegiate gymnastics competition floor.
At the men’s NCAA championships, Cal advanced to the qualifying round as a team with hopes to place in the top three and advance to finals. The Bears ultimately came up short of this goal, finishing their team run in sixth.
It was not the end for all of the Bears, however, as star freshman Darren Wong and seasoned senior Aaron Mah qualified to compete in the all-around finals after finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in the qualification round. While neither Wong nor Mah could pull off a top finish to earn a title, the two finished 13th and 15th, respectively, rounding out Mah’s final meet of his career with a solid performance.
This season, Wong has been just as crucial to the men’s team as Clausi has been to the women’s. He was named MPSF Gymnast of the Week twice and CGA Rookie of the Week once, and he captured several top finishes in the all-around throughout the season. His ability to continue to improve all the way through the postseason should translate into individual and team growth for the Bears during the remainder of his time at Cal.
The NCAA championship team competition bore witness to several upsets, as neither of last year’s winning teams, UCLA (women) and Oklahoma (men), could recapture their titles — instead, it was undefeated No. 1 Oklahoma for the women and No. 2 Stanford for the men that emerged victorious. Individually, Oklahoma’s Maggie Nichols repeated her all-around victory, becoming only the second woman in 20 years to achieve such a feat. Nichols narrowly beat No. 1-ranked and championship favorite Kyla Ross of UCLA by a meager 0.05. Stanford gymnast Brody Malone won the all-around in the men’s competition, helping break Oklahoma’s winning streak in team and individual competition.
The NCAA championships conclude the Bears’ 2019 competition season, and while the teams will be losing some valuable gymnasts, their young and dynamic competitors will propel Cal forward in future seasons.