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Cal Women's Gymnastics finishes a program best 7th at the 2016 NCAA National Championships

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For only the second time in program history, the Golden Bears as a team are competing in the NCAA Championships. Golden Bears achieved a program best 7th overall finish (4th in its session) at the 2016 NCAA National Championships.

Count on the Golden Bears to put on a show tonight from Fort Worth, TX.
Count on the Golden Bears to put on a show tonight from Fort Worth, TX.
Cal Women's Gymnastics Facebook

Recap from CalBears.com:

FORT WORTH, Texas – Making only their second team appearance at the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships in school history, the Golden Bears were what some around the country would consider an unknown entity at an event that’s only had six champions in its 35-year history. The “new kids on the block” proved they belonged among the nation’s finest by taking fourth in their semifinal session and seventh overall.

Cal turned in a 195.850 to take fourth in Semifinal II behind Oklahoma (197.7875), Alabama (197.3875) and UCLA (196.700). Nebraska was fifth in the session with a 195.775 and Utah was sixth at 195.7625. The Bears outscored Utah for the first time in program history, which includes 10 all-time meetings.

As the top three finishers in the session, the Sooners, Crimson Tide and Bruins all advance to Saturday’s Super Six, where a national champion will be crowned. Florida (197.475), LSU (197.3375) and Georgia (196.725) advanced out of Semifinal I. The full list of standings is below:

1. Oklahoma - 197.7875
2. Florida - 197.475
3. Alabama - 197.3875
4. LSU - 197.3375
5. Georgia - 196.725
6. UCLA - 196.700
7. Cal - 195.850
8. Nebraska - 195.775
9. Utah - 195.7625
10. Stanford - 195.575
11. Auburn - 195.100
12. Minnesota - 194.9875

Congratulations to Cal Women's Gymnastics for achieving a program best 7th place overall at the NCAA national championships. To the delights of Cal fans everywhere, the Golden Bears finished ahead of Stanford (in 10th place) to cap a historic year.

Like I mentioned in the preview below, the Golden Bears will essentially return the full squad plus adding 4 talented freshmen into the mix. More importantly, I imagine Cal star Toni-Ann Williams will not have an Olympic qualifier to make her miss the NCAA Championships, should the Golden Bears make a habit of returning to it next year.

Yes, Cal Women's Gymnastics, you girls have set the bar higher for the program. I think we would all like to think that the Bears can sustain this success and trajectory for improvement to finish even better (maybe a berth to the NCAA Final Six?) in 2017.

ROLL ON YOU BEARS!

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Cal Women's Gymnastics at NCAA Championships

Where: Fort Worth, TX

When: Semifinal Session II, 5 pm PT

TV: ESPNU, WatchESPN

Live Stats: NCAA

For the first time in 24 years (that's back in 1992, in case you're lazy and don't want to do the math), the Golden Bears are back in the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championship.

Golden Bears will try to finish better than the 8th place finish back in 1992 and better yet, advance to the final session by being one of the top 6 teams in the country.

By the way, check out the team poster from back in 1992.

Competing against No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 Utah, No. 8 UCLA, No. 12 Nebraska in session II, No.10 Golden Bears will need to finish in the top 3 of the second session to advance to the final session. Bears have finished ahead of UCLA in a meet earlier this year. Cal finished 2nd behind Alabama in the Tuscaloosa regional to book their ticket to Fort Worth. The teams in session I are No. 2 Florida, No. 3 LSU, No. 6 Auburn, No. 9 Georgia, No. 16 Minnesota, No. 18 Stanford. Hopefully if nothing else, we would finish better than Stanford.

To achieve a program best finish, the Bears will have to do so without their best gymnast in Toni-Ann Williams, who is in Rio this weekend to try to be a "Calympian" this summer and represent her country of Jamaica. Due to delay in construction at Rio, this qualification which previously was scheduled for January, got pushed to the same weekend as the NCAA nationals.

While Toni-Ann Williams, who made the NCAA Championships as an individual last year, is no doubt a big part of the team, the Cal squad is still in pretty good shape without her. While Williams is always a good bet for a big vault and floor scores, the Bears were able to overcome her low vault score at the NCAA Regional two weeks ago. I expect the Golden Bears to still post a very competitive score even if their ceiling is a bit lower without Toni-Ann.

While there are a couple of seniors on the squad: Serena Leong and Kristina Heymann, the Golden Bears are mostly sophomore and juniors (so for nothing else, this trip is a great experience for next year...when the Bears add 4 more talented freshmen to the mix). Zoe Draghi, Jessica Howe, Charlie Owens, Desiree Palomares, and Emily Richardson are the Bears' junior leaders. They also represent a big class in the Bears' turnaround from a program on the brink of being cut to a merging national powerhouse. In all four seasons with the Howells at the helm, head coach Justin Howell and his wife associate head coach Elisabeth Crandall-Howell, the program has really preached just keeping a slow but steady pace of doing #OneDayBetter. There are still a way to go to be the best, but the Bears are closer to it than ever (as evident by being able to pose with the national championship trophy).

The Bears will begin the meet on beam and continue in Olympic order, with a bye before floor, floor, vault, and another bye before ending the meet on the uneven bars. This was the same order as in the NCAA Regional, where several Golden Bears had to hit consecutive clutch bar routines to clinch the nationals berth.

Bears will bring their best to a national audience tonight. Regardless of the result, the Bears will put on a great show and make Fort Worth a Bear Territory tonight.

GO BEARS!