Alas, a late surge was not enough for the 16th ranked California Golden Bears in the Fayatteville Regional. In a meet that was judged rather hard across the board, the Bears had an okay floor rotation of 49.000 follow by a mediocre vault rotation of 48.975. With a sizable 0.400 deficit to make up, the Bears posted a 2nd highest bar score of the season with a 49.225 and ends with a 49.100 on the beam. Overall, the Bears placed 5th in this NCAA Regional.
Interestingly, the 196.300 is apparently the best NCAA regional score for the Bears (and the Bears have advanced to the NCAA Championships twice).
Individually, Bears got a pair of 9.900 score from Desiree Palomares on beam and Yuleen Sternberg on bars. We shall see if those scores are good enough for them to advance as individuals. Bears had no one competing for the all-around.
UPDATE: Senior Desiree Palomares will be going to St. Louis on April 14th-15th for the NCAA Championships! She will compete on the beam for a shot at the NCAA title in that apparatus. This marks the 3rd straight year that the Golden Bears will have some kind of representation at the NCAA. In 2015, Toni-Ann Williams made the NCAA Championships as an all-around individual. Last year, the entire Cal squad made the NCAA Championships by finishing 2nd at the Tuscaloosa Regional.
Congratulations and good luck to Desiree!
Couldn't be happier to represent my amazing team at Nationals ✨ https://t.co/1tag1Ng8sT— Desiree Palomares (@desiraayy) April 2, 2017
Top two of the six teams advance to the NCAA Championships - that’s the key thing to keep in mind as the California Golden Bears compete in the Fayetteville Regional this afternoon. No.16 Golden Bears will be competing against No.4 Utah, No.9 Denver, No.21 Auburn, host Arkansas, and Central Michigan for two spots to the NCAA Championships.
The ever improving Cal women’s gymnastics program is seeking their 3rd trip to the NCAA Championships - and the first back to back trip to the NCAA Championships as a team. Last year, the Bears finished 2nd in the Tuscaloosa Regional to advance, although star Toni-Ann Williams had to missed the NCAA Championships to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics. Golden Bears did have the benefit of Toni-Ann Williams in the lineup for the NCAA Regional. This year, Toni-Ann Williams is out with a season ending injury about a quarter of the way into the season.
Nevertheless, depth is something that the Cal program has slowly been building and after a week or two of adjustment, the remaining able-bodied Golden Bears have bounced back (and higher than before). Although the Bears had a mediocre finish at the Pac-12 Championships few weeks ago, they are fully capable of advancing out of this regional.
One big positive out of the Pac-12 was the Bears scoring a season high 49.300 on the floor - the one rotation where they most missed Toni-Ann Williams. Zoe Draghi and Arianna Robinson were solid as usual with 9.90 and 9.875, respectively. The key was career high of 9.85s from Mariah Peterson and Sylvie Seilnacht.
A 9.90 on floor for Zoe! Can't get enough of her gorgeous dance moves.https://t.co/m2yKqD0TYq— Cal Gymnastics (@calwgym) March 18, 2017
In the two weeks prior to the Pac-12 Championships, Golden Bears scored 196.800 in a loss to No.4 UCLA and 196.775 in a loss to No.1 Oklahoma. If the Bears can score higher than 196.7 (which if the Bears had hit would have allowed them to beat Utah in their dual meet earlier this year), I think they will be in good shape for that 2nd spot.
Senior Emily Richardson is having a home coming of sort in this meet (she is originally from Arkansas before moving to Texas to further her gymnastics career). She will be looking to match her career best 9.90 on the beam in this meet. The Golden Bears have posted back-to-back 49.325 in beam this year (2nd best in program history). Their RQS of 49.225 on the beam is 16th best in the country. Alicia Gallarzo had a career best 9.925 on the beam at the Pac-12.
Bears are of course not too shabby on the vault and the bar.
Regardless of whether the Bears are actually in contention to advance, it should be another great show for the squad. The “one day better” slogan for the team in the last few years has now reach the toughest part. Better now means top 10 in the country. Better now means competing for the national championships. The dream of that may have been dashed by Toni-Ann’s injury somewhat, but there will be no excuses from these gritty Golden Bears (despite all the glitter on the leotards). Head coach Justin Howell and his wife, associate head coach, Liz Crandall-Howell have built the Cal program into an emerging powerhouse. Just about any achievement now will be uncharted water. A return trip to the NCAA Championship without your top gymnast? Why not Cal?
Looking at the Cal roster, there are a number of impact seniors on this team. Zoe Draghi, Jessica Howe, Charlie Owens, Desiree Palomares, Emily Richardson, Amber Takara, as well as Isabelle Castillo and Dana Ho will always be remembered for their roles in the program’s resurgence. Here is the video tribute to the Cal seniors from Senior Day.
Like I mentioned before, top 2 teams will advance to the NCAA Championships - so will the top 24 all-around competitors and 24 individual event specialists who are not on an advancing team. Two years ago, Toni-Ann Williams advanced to the NCAA Championships as an all-around individual.
The NCAA Championships will be held in Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, Missouri on April 14th and 15th.
NCAA Fayetteville Regional
Where: Barnhill Arena (Fayetteville, Arkansas)
When: 2 PM PT
How to watch: Livestream