SATURDAY NIGHT UPDATE:
All 4 teams of Cal, No.1 Oklahoma, host Georgia, and Kentucky came to compete on Saturday night at the Athens Regional Final for the two spots to advance to the NCAA Championships in Fort Worth. No.1 Oklahoma was nearly flawless in claiming one spot.
California Golden Bears got to open in their two best events of vaults and bars and did their best to apply a lot of pressures on host Georgia. Golden Bears had the slimmest 0.025 lead on the home GymDogs at the half.
Georgia then turned it up a notch by getting 3 9.90 and 1 perfect 10 on bars to retake the lead for 2nd place. They closed it out with 1 9.90 and 3 9.95 score on beams to effectively end any Cal bid to pull off an upset.
Golden Bears probably could have done slightly better on the floor but still managed to close the meet in 3rd with a score of 197.675...good for a program record. That is peaking at the right time, and you really can’t ask for more than that.
PROGRAM RECORD SCORE.— Cal Gymnastics (@CalWGym) April 7, 2019
Cal ups its school-record total (for the second time this season!) to 197.675, but the Bears fall short of advancing to the NCAA Championships to close another incredible year.#GoBears pic.twitter.com/8teE7Rbk4A
That 197.675 would have been good enough to win some of the other Regionals, but that’s not how it works. Bears were assigned to a tough regional where everyone, including Kentucky, excelled on Saturday night.
Although the team is eliminated, Cal will send freshman sensation Milan Clausi to Fort Worth as an individual competitor on the vault. Bears have made it to the NCAA Championships as a team in two of the past three years. In the other years, Desiree Palomares made the NCAA as a beam specialist. The year prior to that, Toni-Ann Williams made the NCAA as an all-around gymnast. So that streak of having a Golden Bear representative at the NCAA Championships will continue in 2019 with Milan Clausi.
Cal women’s gymnastics have plenty of young talent, particularly those who scored 9.90 or above on Saturday night. The future of the program, that has consistently improved every year, is still pointing in the right direction. Bears will miss Toni-Ann Williams’ sideline leadership in 2020, but they also might get even closer to that elusive Pac-12 and NCAA titles and supplant the likes of UCLA and Utah.
We work hard, and we're not done yet.— Cal Gymnastics (@CalWGym) April 6, 2019
Back in Stegeman tonight at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET. pic.twitter.com/NbRePPkbnB
Looking at the schedule, Cal will start Saturday night on the vault, then move to bars, beam, and ending on the floor.
By the way (and this is no longer surprising because Cal Women’s Gymnastics is still resetting records every year), last night’s 196.750 was the highest NCAA Regional score in Cal program history. Of course, they would need to do even better to make the final 8 (down from 12 in the past) on Saturday night.
FRIDAY NIGHT UPDATE:
As expected, Cal Bears grabbed that second spot behind top ranked Oklahoma Sooners in Friday’s session II to advance to Saturday night’s Athens Regional Final where two spots in the NCAA Championships will be up for grab between Cal, Oklahoma, host Georgia, and Kentucky.
Other than Oklahoma, the other three squads in Cal, NC State (winner of the play-in match yesterday), and Maryland all had issue in the first rotation. Cal and NC State were able to get that one bad routine dropped, but not the Maryland Terps. Bears kind of had a mediocre floor routine before turning on the switch to post a season best vault routine and close with a solid bars routine.
When it was over, Cal with a team score of 196.750 and Oklahoma with a team score of 198.300 will compete in the Regional Final on Saturday night. For comparison, Georgia and Kentucky also advanced to Saturday’s night’s session with scores of 197.300 and 196.850, respectively.
SEASON HIGH VAULT SCORE— Cal Gymnastics (@CalWGym) April 6, 2019
49.350 for the Bears! Everyone goes 9.80 or higher and check out that back half of the lineup! pic.twitter.com/sf07Kx450p
The #BearsOnBars nail it with a 49.275. Another 9.80+ set for all six gymnasts in our lineup!— Cal Gymnastics (@CalWGym) April 6, 2019
Alma comes through with a season-high 9.875 in only her seventh appearance on the event this year. pic.twitter.com/hUHYq9PxBR
There are definitely several minor things that the Golden Bears can clean up between tonight and tomorrow to possibly make up those score difference. Regardless of what happen, you know that the Bears will give their best shot and this experience will proved to be important for several young members of this squad.
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!
Nope, the Cal women’s gymnastics season was not ended by the devastating season-ending ACL tear of senior star and Jamaican Calympian Toni-Ann Williams. Even without their senior leader (who was still steadily getting back to form from an offseason arm injury), the rest of the Golden Bears followed the script of steadily improving and posted season best marks as they entered the postseason.
The squad has rallied together since the Toni-Ann Williams’ injury to continue to grow. That story is captured by this Pac-12 Network feature embedded below.
For those who may not have remembered, Cal Women’s Gymnastics was on the chopping block back in 2010. When the program was saved by alumni and other donors, the new coaching tandem of the Howells (Justin and wife Elizabeth Crandall - a former top level gymnast) have done some magic to this program to bring it up to the elite level, highlighted by last year’s home victory over the Utah Red Rocks.
Cal Women’s Gymnastics has emerged as a steady, top 15 if not top 10 program (Bears finished in the top in 2 of the last 3 years). While the ceiling for this team is not quite as high without a Toni-Ann Williams at her best, Golden Bears have had earned 38 9.90 or better scores across all four apparatus. IF everything goes just right, it is not impossible for this Cal squad to shock people and make it out of this NCAA Regional this weekend.
New NCAA Format
There is no longer the “Super Six” in NCAA college women’s gymnastics. In an effort to streamline the championships, NCAA has cut down the number of participants in the final session from 6 to 4. In the past, the Super Six were half of the field as the NCAA Championships - Cal came really close to making that for the first time in program history in 2016 when they finished 7th without Toni-Ann Williams who was away to qualify for the Olympics.
Working backward, instead of 6 Regionals where the top 2 advanced out of it to make the NCAA championships, we have just 4 Regionals in 2019 to have just 8 teams advancing to Fort Worth, TX.
After the play-in round on Thursday, NC State has emerged victorious over New Hampshire for a spot in tonight’s session 2 alongside Cal (4th seed at this regional). Also in the mix are top seed and No.1 Oklahoma as well as a young and upcoming Maryland team. The top 2 finishers on Friday night will advance to Saturday night’s Regional Finals.
The top 2 seeds from Friday’s Session I are host Georgia and 3rd seed Kentucky. Missouri and Iowa State are the other two teams there.
For the California Golden Bears to advance to the NCAA Championships as a team, they would need to finish in the top 2 for both Friday AND Saturday night.
To be honest, I am a bit confused on the prospect of gymnasts advancing to the NCAA as individuals. My take of the rules is that they would first need to make the Regional Finals where the top 2 all-around as well as individual event winners (who were neither on advancing team nor got that all-around berths) will advance.
A great sign for the longevity of Cal women’s gymnastics success is the talented freshman class that has come to Berkeley this past fall. Milan Clausi, Maya Bordas, and Talitha Jones have already entrenched themselves into the Cal lineup.
Clausi, daughter of Utah great and USA Olympian Missy Marlow (also the first college women’s gymnast to earn a perfect 10 in all four apparatus in an year), was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year after winning the Freshman of the Week honor 4 times during the season. Clausi is one of the best vaulter on the team, 23rd in the nation, given her choice to do a vault with high degrees of difficulty; Clausi has also showcased her great sense of dance in her beam and floor routines. The future is really bright for this Cal freshman.
Also worthy of being mentioned is Cal sophomore Emi Watterson in the uneven bars. The Australian native is the top ranked Bears with her 19th best score on that apparatus in the nation. Both Watterson and Clausi earned Pac-12 Conference 2nd team honor for placing in the top 3 at the Pac-12 Championships. Watterson is peaking at the right time as she has earned a score of 9.95 in 3 of the last 4 meets.
Competing in the all-around for the Bears will be sophomore Kyana George. George is ranked 43rd in the country on the vault. She also has a skill named after her on the balance beam.
The highest score on the floor for the Bears this year came from senior Chelsea Shu, who got a 9.95 on her final performance at Haas. Bears have 4 different top scorers for the 4 apparatuses to show that they have plenty of depth (if consistency is kind of an issue).
Even without Toni-Ann Williams, the rest of the Golden Bears steadily improved so that the squad set a program record of 197.575 in their final home meet of the season.
BEARS WIN!— Cal Gymnastics (@CalWGym) March 17, 2019
What a day!
PROGRAM RECORD 197.575 team total
Season-high vault (49.350 - T4th all-time)
PROGRAM RECORD 49.475 beam total
Season high floor (49.400 - T4th all-time)
Perfect record at home for the first time since 1994 pic.twitter.com/sZ6hOTzAMN
As a team, the Golden Bears have a 196.625 RQS (which is average of team scores, including a number of road scores, used for NCAA seeding) which ties with Oregon State for the 15th best in the country.
And it was rightfully pointed out to us that California was incorrectly listed at 16th instead of tied for 15th where they actually are. Here's the corrected graphic. pic.twitter.com/71vHbgI2bP— RoadToNationals.com (@RoadToNationals) March 25, 2019
Pac-12 Championships recap
Golden Bears finished 4th overall at the very competitive Pac-12 Championships few weeks ago. UCLA, the reigning NCAA defending champs, won the meet with Utah a close 2nd. Cal just finished behind Oregon State by the slimmest of margin.
Cal should use a very similar (if not the same) lineup for the NCAA Regional as they did for the Pac-12 Championships.
Bears got two 9.90 scores from senior Sofie Seilnacht and sophomore Kyana George.
Clausi and fellow freshman Bordas led the way in vault, but the Bears certainly left some points off the board in this event.
Bears bounced back in a huge way in the uneven bars, led by Watterson’s 9.95. The lowest score (which is dropped) is a 9.825 here.
Bears also have junior Cassidy Keelen who has scored 9.90 on the beam this year as a sepcialist. Keelen was not a part of the Pac-12 Championships lineup (possible injury?) and the Bears fall well short of the 49.475 program record on beam in their previous meet here.
California Women’s Gymnastics at the NCAA Athens Regional
Where: Stegeman Coliseum (Athens, GA)
When: Friday night 4pm PT and hopefully also Saturday night at 4pm PT
Online Stream: WatchESPN as a part of SEC Network+ (Friday Night Replay here)
Eyeing a Top 2 finish tonight to move on to the NCAA Championships.— Cal Gymnastics (@CalWGym) April 6, 2019
: Stegeman Coliseum | Athens, GA
⏰: 4 PM PT/7 PM ET
: https://t.co/eu1zjSw6XQ pic.twitter.com/ML6mOzQkLy