Bears Beam breaks record but finishes third
NORMAN, OKLAHOMA – The ninth-ranked California women’s gymnastics set a school record on balance beam but saw their season end Saturday in the NCAA Regional Finals as they took third in a quadruple meet at Lloyd’s Noble Center on the Oklahoma campus.
As the top two teams qualified for the NCAA Championship, Cal recorded a 197.300, while No. 1 Oklahoma finished first with a 198.250. Cal was neck and neck with No. 8 Minnesota throughout the meet, but Minnesota took the lead in the final rotation and finished with a 197.725. Arkansas took fourth place with a score of 196.675.
The Bears opened the regional on bars and saw some of their younger team members perform. First-year student maddie williams recorded a 9.85 on the 12the times this season she has scored 9.85 or more. Cal also received 9.85 performances from a pair of sophomores in Gabby Perea and Andi Li. Nina Schank scored a 9.80 and Nevaeh De Souza posted a 9.775 to complete the range. Cal scored a 49.125 and sat in fourth place after the first spin.
“I think they totally came together at the end of the bar rotation,” Crandall-Howell said. “We talked about everything that can happen in this encounter. You can’t change what’s already happened, but you can stay committed to every routine by the end of the encounter, and that’s what ‘they did.”
The Bears switched to beam in the second rotation and immediately jumped up the rankings by setting a school record at the event. Cal scored 49.525 on beam to cut its deficit to the second-place team to .175 after trailing .425 after the first rotation. The Bears built a fantastic rotation like DeSouza’s top three (9.85), Milano Clausi (9.875) and Williams (9.85) all scored 9.85 or higher. After that, Cal stepped it up as Maya Bordas posted a 9.90 and tied for sixth place. The Bears finished the rotation with consecutive scores of 9.95 from Li and Mya Lauzon as the duo tied for second place. Cal’s score of 49.525 surpassed the previous school record of 49.500, which was set in last year’s meet against UCLA.
“They were on fire on beam,” Crandall-Howell said. “We’ve been waiting for the beam record for a while and I was so proud, but that’s not even enough to describe how I feel. That’s what sport is, when there are ups and downs, they choose to step up and go up and even though the first event didn’t go the way they wanted, they were going to go up for the rest of the night.”
The Bears recorded a 49.525 rushing for the second time this weekend as they tied for the fourth-best rushing rotation in school history as five Bears posted a 9.90 or better . The high scoring streak began in second place as Perea was replaced in the lineup and notched a 9.90. Clausi and Lauzon followed with scores of 9.90. Andi Li hit a 9.925 from fifth in the roster while tied for fifth. Grace Quinn followed by a 9.90, the ninth time she has scored a 9.90 or higher on floor this year in 11 competitions. Perea, Clausi, Lauzon and Quinn are all tied for eighth with their score of 9.90. The Bears moved into second place with an outstanding rotation on the floor as they passed the Gophers and led 148.175-148.075 heading into the final rotation with an NCAA championship berth on the line.
“We couldn’t have asked more of our freshmen and sophomores in this competition today,” said Crandall-Howell. “They don’t have a ton of experience competing in regionals, it didn’t faze them, they dialed in even more and they used the energy of the building as fuel for their fight. Which is cool to see people who are so young. Gabby didn’t have a lot of opportunities to compete last year, in many ways she still has firsts. She got us started on bars well, her energy and composure were contagious throughout our team. We made some skill adjustments to her floor routine and she was fully invested. She didn’t have a lot of time to prepare and she stepped up.
The Bears switched to vault in their final rotation and posted a team score of 49.125. Mya Lauzon and Maya Bordas led the way with 9.85 points. Williams returned to the roster after sitting out the regional semifinal and recorded a 9.825. Clausi, DeSouza and Li all scored 9.80 points for the Bears. The Bears were the first team in the final rotation to finish and saw Minnesota register a 49.650 to overtake the Bears and claim second place in qualifying behind Oklahoma.
“I think we’ve had a lot of tough times this season,” Crandall-Howell said. “I’ve been really impressed that they can all keep going. We’ve had people who are sick or injured, and they’ve been invested in getting back to their 100 per cent and contributing to the team. As a group, we thrive under the most difficult circumstances. The victories we have won this year cannot be reflected in the scores.”
Li took third place in the all-around finishing with a 39.525, the fifth time this season the sophomore has recorded exactly that score. Maya Bordas finished fourth with a 39.250.
“Our progress has built on the work of so many people, but each of our seniors has contributed so much of their heart and soul to this program,” Crandall-Howell said. “They raised expectations and everyone came. They’ve built an even stronger legacy here than they can even comprehend at this point. They can absorb some of it now, but it will be even more in five years. when people remember what they did in those times. In fact, they’re going to come alive even more because we don’t see them every day. Maya Bordas will always be our first national champion. All of them had several records, each year these records and awards kept piling up. Every time they set a standard for themselves, they exceeded it. That’s what we want for them even after they leave the gym, that they set high standards for themselves and exceed them.”