Cal women’s gymnastics’s roster features athletes from around the world, and it’s typical for prospective recruits to travel from all over to visit the campus.
The 2021 season’s recruiting process was unusual in that it happened much closer to home — still, new athletes on every squad will find their homes in Berkeley once sports and school resume. The Bears are welcoming three new gymnasts from California to the No. 9 team in the nation.
The talented trio of Kennedy Quay, Elise Byun and Blake Gozashti was recently added to the roster. The Bears’ coaching staff has high expectations for the incoming gymnasts and hopes these recruits will help maintain the upward trajectory created last season.
Quay was born and raised in San Diego, and she began her gymnastics career at the age of 4. After her successful high school career, Cal fans are hopeful that Quay will become a rising star in collegiate gymnastics.
Her merits include silver medals on vault in both 2017 and 2018 at the Junior Olympic National Championships. In 2017, she finished in the top five as an all-arounder. Described as a leader by co-head coach Justin Howell, Quay was an integral part of her Southern California Elite Gymnastics Academy squad, finishing in the top three at the 2019 nationals.
She will be balancing her role as a Division I gymnast with lofty goals inside the classroom as she pursues a degree in mechanical engineering.
Byun hails from Los Altos and competed with Airborne Gymnastics, the same program that produced Cal’s Maya Green.
She began her career as a gymnast during second grade, but her journey has not always been smooth sailing. In high school, Byun broke her ankle and needed surgery, forcing her to take a break from competing. She has since recovered and is expected to become a well-rounded gymnast who will strengthen the Bears’ vault lineup, which is ranked No. 6 in the nation.
Byun has qualified for the Junior Olympic National Championships twice, and four of her all-around performances in 2020 have earned top-10 honors, including her second-place win at the Brestyan’s Las Vegas Invitational.
In 2019, she was the Region 1 uneven bar champion and a driving force behind the success of her club team in achieving a record-breaking team score of 117.300.
A product of Gymnastics Zone, Gozashti, who hails from Penngrove, proved herself to be a standout gymnast in Northern California, earning fifth overall at the NorCal Level 10 State Championships in 2018.
At the 2017 NorCal Level 10 State Championships, Gozashti broke her nose during her uneven bar routine and was unable to compete at the Region 1 Championships despite qualifying.
In summer 2016, she spent several weeks training in international facilities in Switzerland and Italy with her club teammates and coaches. Howell is hopeful that these worldly experiences will give her a valuable perspective during her time as a Bear.
Recruiting a strong trio of gymnasts may help Cal continue to rise through the ranks under the leadership of Howell and Elisabeth Crandall-Howell. The husband-wife coaching duo has guided Cal to unprecedented heights: Between 2012 and 2016, the team rose 33 spots in rank, the largest margin of improvement in NCAA history. Careful recruitment has been an integral part of improving the team’s national ranking.
The three new recruits may follow in the footsteps of rising sophomore Nevaeh DeSouza, who had an explosive start to her collegiate career, scoring the most points for the Bears and consistently competing as an all-arounder.
Cal has a recent history of boasting strong freshman talent. The Bears held the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year title four times within the past eight years, with Milan Clausi and DeSouza bringing home the title for Cal in consecutive seasons.
This trio of new recruits has potential to compete for the title in 2021.
Sarah Siegel covers women’s gymnastics. Contact her at