Bears outshine GymDawgs twice with program record

Photo of Cal Women's Gymnastics
Vanessa Lim/Staff

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It was the first word that came to mind for senior Kyana George as she reflected on last Sunday’s meet. The Bears’ afternoon in Haas was their last of the regular season and a home finale for George, one of the team’s five seniors.

“Finally having a senior meet, especially since last year our seniors didn’t have one, was nice,” George said. “COVID didn’t stop us from having that day.”

The seniors’ swan song in Haas was a meet like no other as the Bears defeated the GymDawgs 197.600-196.025. Cal’s team score was the third-best score in program history, despite an underwhelming 49.100 on the beam.

The Bears capped off their performance by earning a 49.575 on the floor, a new program high that eclipsed their previous program record by 0.25 points.

“It’s amazing,” said assistant coach Janelle McDonald. “They have been working really really really hard. To see that all come together and to hit a program record there was amazing.”

Throughout the event, it was George who led the way for the blue and gold, scoring a career-high 9.975. George’s anchoring performance earned her the Specialist of the Week nod in the Pac-12’s weekly awards presentation. Freshman Andi Li was next in line, earning a 9.95 despite it being just her third time in the event.

Li also earned her first-ever all-around crown on Sunday. Her score of 39.575 ties for the sixth-highest in program history. For her efforts, Li was awarded Freshman of the Week.

Cal saw similar successes earlier in the week against the same foe. On Wednesday, the Bears flew to Washington to challenge the GymDawgs. There, the visiting team came out on top 197.225 to 196.525.

The midweek showdown saw sophomore Nevaeh DeSouza claim the all-around title, as well as event victories on the uneven bars, vault and beam. For her consistency throughout Cal’s double-header, DeSouza earned Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week. Li shined once again with 9.90s on floor and beam, both personal bests.

The Bears’ road victory was not without its hiccups. After earning the program’s first perfect score on bars in 29 years, senior Emi Watterson fell off the uneven bars Wednesday.

McDonald was quick to comfort Watterson and put her team back on track.

“In gymnastics, when there’s a mistake, we want to have a short-term memory,” McDonald said. “We just wanted to let her know her team has your back and focus on what’s next.”

McDonald’s encouragement evidently paid off. Alma Kuc followed Watterson in the anchor position and earned a 9.875. Later that week, Watterson would earn a 9.925 on the same event.

As the Bears wrap up a record-breaking regular season run, they look to the postseason with high hopes and scores to match.

The blue and gold holds the top seed in the Pac-12 and are ranked in the top 10 nationally in every event. Their National Qualifying Score, the metric used to determine NCAA regionals seeding, is the fifth highest in the nation. This is the highest the team has ranked in program history.

However, it seems that Cal’s focus lies beyond the numbers.

“The milestones are special and deserve to be celebrated,” McDonald said. “But really our focus every day is just to be a little bit better. If they do that, and they build confidence, then they’re going to be one of the best teams in the country. We fully believe that.”

The Bears will compete again at the Pac-12 Championships on Saturday, March 20.

Aiko Sudijono covers women’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected]