Attitude of gratitude: Bears roll into season against rival Cardinal

Photo of Cal women's gymnastics
Vanessa Lim/Senior Staff

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Attitude permeates the most diverse aspects of life: job interviews, heated video games, competing in the Olympics and even convincing your parents to let you go on that two-week winter break trip.

For the Bears, that attitude of gratitude has kept them persevering and will push them as they approach their opening meet of the Pac-12 conference Jan. 16 against their arch-rival the Cardinal. The Sunday meet at Haas Pavilion will be an exciting one for both Cal and Stanford as the two will finally be able to compete before a live audience.

“We’re really excited to have fans in the arena,” said Cal co-head coach Justin Howell. “Competing in front of cardboard cutouts last year was awesome. I think the real thing will be a little bit better.”

Unlike last season, the teams have had more time to prepare for meets without the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not they’d be able to compete. Although unpredictability still lies ahead given the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bears are grateful for the ability to do gymnastics and excited for what the season will bring.

Cal not only will open the 2022 conference schedule Sunday, but it gets to do so with a bang: competing against its rival school. Both teams pack powerful kicks and flips, especially given the return of fifth-year seniors and the introduction of strong freshman classes.

“Coming in, we have five freshmen, and they’re all great athletes. I think immediately … be on the lookout for Mya Lauzon and Madeyln Williams –– both are coming in as Junior Olympic champions. They’re elite level athletes that are really exciting athletes to watch,” Howell said.

He continues that the team also has stellar veterans returning, including junior Nevaeh Desouza, senior Milan Clausi, redshirt senior Nina Schank and national champion of the uneven bars senior Maya Bordas. Those veterans may be the standouts, but the Bears have enough depth to receive contributions on multiple levels.

“Everybody on our team has the ability to make an impact,” Howell said.

For Stanford, fifth-year senior Kyla Bryant, junior Chloe Widner and senior Madison Brunette will be key players for the Cardinal. Last season, Bryant picked up a Pac-12 title after her performance on the floor exercise –– the first Pac-12 title for the Cardinal since Elizabeth Price in 2018.

Both teams are strong, and the match will be an exciting one. Regardless of the fate that awaits the Bears on Sunday, the team is grateful that it will be able to do gymnastics this year, especially before an audience beyond cardboard cutout fans.

Despite COVID-19’s challenges, the Bears’ outlook is bright, and they will continue to foster that mentality given its bearing on the team last season. A key component to the Bears’ roaring success in 2021 was their “attitude of gratitude,” according to Howell.

“We had this attitude of gratitude that we’re going to take every day and celebrate the fact that we get to do gymnastics with the people that we love doing it with,” Howell said. “We only focused on the things that we could control each day and went off of that. That’s what we’re going to try to do this year.”

Even with the unknowns that lie in the future, the team is doing its best to be “one day better” and looks forward to a beaming season.

This meet marks the opportunity for a great beginning for the teams, as whichever finishes at the top of the podium will get first bragging rights over its rival until its next meet Feb. 4. But like Howell said, for Cal, doing the sport exists more for them because of their passion.

“The reason that we do this is because we love gymnastics, and we love competing for Cal, and we’re just going to keep this in the forefront of our minds as we go through this season,” Howell said.

Mia Wachtel covers women’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected].