Victor doesn’t take all: Cal wins, yet Washington soars

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Caroline Lobel/Staff

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Sometimes, the scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story. Sometimes, you can lose a meet and still leave the mat having proven something more than the opposing team. 

Cal women’s gymnastics may have won Saturday’s meet, defeating Washington 196.675-195.45, but the GymDawgs were able to walk away from Alaska Airlines Arena with their heads held high.

Entering the meet, Cal was sitting at No. 2 in the Pac-12, while Washington occupied the conference basement. With such a matchup, both teams were competing against themselves rather than each other. While both improved upon previous scores, the Huskies did so remarkably, increasing their season-opening score by a whopping 1.45 points.

 Sophomore Skylar Killough-Wilhelm, Washington’s sole all-arounder, set a new career high on bars with a 9.9 and matched her career-high 9.9 on beam after earning personal bests on both events in the GymDawgs’ season opener. The pair of 9.9s earned her the beam title and a tie for second on bars while contributing to the 39.4 that earned her second in the all-around. 

Senior Amara Cunningham’s 9.925 on floor gave her the event title, and her 9.85 on vault was good for a four-way tie for first with Cal seniors Maya Bordas, Nina Schank and Milan Clausi. 

Of course, when you’re No. 2 in the Pac-12 and No. 11 in the nation, any improvement produces impressive results. In addition to the overall win and the majority of the vault title, Cal took home Bordas’ all-around title and sophomore Andi Li’s bars win. Li also placed third in the all-around.

Cal’s veterans may have dominated, but the Bears allowed their freshmen to shine. Former Junior Olympic national champions Mya Lauzon and Madelyn Williams made their debuts on bars and beam, respectively. Their matching 9.825s on beam earned them third, which they shared with Washington’s Kennedi Davis. 

The addition of bars to Lauzon’s events also made Saturday’s meet her collegiate all-around debut. With friends and family watching, the Kent, Washington-local scored 38.975 — tying with teammate Nevaeh DeSouza for fourth in the all-around.

“My dad and my mom will be there, and it’ll be nice to see some familiar faces in the crowd,” Lauzon told The Daily Californian last week after the meet against Stanford.

 Williams’ 9.875 on bars tied with Husky Geneva Thompson’s for fourth, and the 9.8 she received on her exhibition vault tied for fifth. Exhibition routines cannot be counted in a team’s final score, but had hers been, the Bears would have posted a 196.75.

Admittedly, it becomes more difficult to improve drastically when you’re closer to the top. And objectively, the Bears did improve. They added 0.35 points to the 196.325 they earned against Stanford in their season opener. The 196.675 is significantly higher than their Week 2 score in 2021. 

Despite the overall improvement, the blue and gold saw higher scores on only two events: the uneven bars and beam, on which Cal had two falls last week (one of which was counted). 

The Bears are consistent. They rarely see mistakes such as falls — and even more rarely have to count them in their final score as they did against Stanford. Thus, simply hitting every routine will not always result in improved scores. The Bears will need to continuously identify small details and perfect them. However, Cal seems confident that it can continue its upward trajectory.

“We’ll have another full week before next weekend’s meet vs. Oregon State,” said co-head coach Justin Howell in a Cal Athletics press release. “We’re headed in the right direction and we’ll be in an even better place next weekend than we were today.”

In 2021, the Bears broke 197.0 in the third week of the season and never looked back. Off to a stronger start this season, the blue and gold will look to surpass that mark Saturday when Oregon State visits Berkeley.

Jocelyn Huang covers women’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter @jocelynxhuang.