In college gymnastics, many conversations about a team’s chances of a strong postseason run revolve around peaking at the right time. Teams that start the season strong sometimes tire out or falter by the time conference championships and regionals roll around. Others never quite hit their stride, recording lows after highs.
Over the weekend, Cal women’s gymnastics distanced itself from those groups and showed it has all the makings of a national championship contender.
The Bears started by setting three program records Friday night, hosting Stanford, Ohio State and Utah State at Haas Pavilion for their first quad meet of the weekend. Cal’s 198.1 topped the 198.05 the 2021 team recorded against UCLA, a 49.6 on beam surpassed the 49.525 that it posted at the NCAA regional final last year and sophomore Mya Lauzon received the school’s highest beam score ever — its first 9.975.
None of the three records Cal etched Friday stayed at the top for long, though. In a quad meet against Arizona, Sacramento State and UC Davis at Haas Pavilion on Sunday, the Bears resoundingly defeated every record they set just two days prior.
Cal won the meet with a 198.275 (making it the first team ever to earn two 198.1-plus scores within 48 hours during the regular season) and posted a historic 49.825 on beam, led by Lauzon’s perfect 10.
“Getting that score felt really good,” Lauzon said. “This whole weekend, we’ve been breaking records on top of records, so we’ve really just been so excited. We’ve come together, and our team is really special, and I think we’re peaking at the right moment.”
Cal’s beam rotation Sunday saw hit routine after hit routine. Senior Nevaeh DeSouza led off the lineup by tying Lauzon’s then-record 9.975. Sophomore Maddie Williams, junior Andi Li and freshman eMjae Frazier followed with a 9.925, 9.95 and 9.925, respectively, setting up for Lauzon’s perfect score. Junior Gabby Perea anchored with a 9.975 of her own (matching the career-high 9.975 she posted on bars the previous rotation), meaning the Bears dropped a 9.925 for their total score.
The 49.825 is not only the highest beam score in Cal history but also the second-highest in NCAA history and the highest since 2003. It also ties Denver’s floor performance the week before for the best score in the country on any event this season.
“Beam was just the highlight,” said co-head coach Liz Crandall-Howell. “I see them do that every single day in the gym, and I don’t always feel like the work that they do and how detailed they are on beam gets appreciated, and I also feel like they’re so hard on themselves that they don’t always appreciate how good they are.”
Lauzon’s performances Friday and Sunday earned the sophomore her second Pac-12 Specialist of the Week honor this season. Her 9.975 on beam Friday tied for first, and her 10 gave her the outright win Sunday. The sophomore also tied for the vault title Friday with a 9.925 and won the floor crown in both meets with back-to-back 9.95s.
In her last meet at Haas Pavilion, DeSouza recorded a season-high 39.575 in the all-around to take third. Her contributions over the weekend gave her the week’s Pac-12 Coaches Choice award, which also recognized her consistency over the past four seasons. The 2020 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year has competed in the all-around in 45 out of 46 meets throughout her college career and has hit all 44 routines this year.
“This was a great way to end my senior season in Haas, and I’m really excited for the postseason,” DeSouza said. “I’ve never gotten a 10 in college from any of the judges before, so (getting the 9.975 on beam) was really exciting.”
While Sunday’s Senior Day meet celebrated DeSouza, Maya Green and Natalie Sadighi, it also showed a glimpse of the program’s future. Freshman Casey Brown led the team on vault with a career-best 9.9, and Frazier posted scores of 9.9-plus on all three events she competed. Sophomores Lauzon and Williams both had standout meets, with Williams recording three 9.925-plus scores to tie Li for the all-around title.
Though Cal’s upcoming seasons look bright, so does its postseason, which begins Saturday at the Pac-12 championship at Maverik Center in West Valley City, Utah. No. 7 Cal, which won a share of the regular-season conference title for the second year in a row, enters as the third seed, behind No. 4 UCLA and No. 5 Utah.