April 6, 2013
CORVALLIS, Ore. -
It wasn't the score they had hoped for, but on a grander scale, the Golden Bears finished their 2013 season with success that cannot be measured by 10.0 start values and final team placements. The California women's gymnastics team placed sixth at the NCAA West Regionals in Corvallis, Ore. with a score of 195.125, behind Georgia (197.425), Arkansas (196.950), Arizona State (195.700), Oregon State (195.375) and Boise State (195.350).
While the team has performed better during the season, Cal met the goal it set out to complete at the start - to compete at regionals. It's the first season a Golden Bear team has done so since 2007 and Saturday's finish closed out what many in the gymnastics world are heralding as a new era of Golden Bear gymnastics.
"I'm really proud of this team and how far we've come. We knew what these girls were capable of, but it took a year for them to believe they were capable of being this team," head coach Justin Howell said. "Even though it wasn't the outcome we had hoped for, the fact that we started out rough and finished on a strong note was a great thing for us. We did what we set out to do, which was qualify for regionals and for all five of our seniors to leave feeling like they don't have any regrets."
Cal started the meet on the balance beam - a challenging event for any team to start on and one that has plagued the Bears the entirety of the season. Senior Madisyn O' Brien started the team off on a high note with a 9.775, but a shaky routine by senior Mariesah Pierce and an uncharacteristic fall by junior Alicia Asturias plus another from freshman Kristina Heymann set Cal back for a team total of 48.125.
"It's tough to start on beam for any team. It's a mental event, and we haven't gotten all the way there all year," Howell said.
Determined not to let their balance beam score affect the rest of the meet, the Golden Bears strung together solid performances for a 48.850 total on the floor and 49. 175 total on the vault apparatus. Freshman Serena Leong matched her career-best 9.9 to claim a share of second place, missing a spot at the NCAA Gymnastics National Championship by just .05 points.
It was in Cal's final event, the uneven bars, where the Bears shined brightest, as two gymnasts matched or set best marks. Sophomore Maddie Kratzke set a new season-best total with a 9.70, and Asturias matched her career-high 9.85. O'Brien used a 9.875 to share second place in the event.
"It was our best bar rotation of the season. All six of our athletes hit their performances," Howell said.
Asturias finished with 38.675 and Pierce finished with 39.050 through all four events but were not able to secure an individual spot at the NCAA Championships.
Though the 2013 season has ended, Howell and the team are already anxious to get back to the competition floor. The wheels are in motion for the 2014 season as Cal hopes to build on the success of this year. Awards such as Leong's Pac-12 Freshman/Newcomer of the Year honor and Howell's NACGC West Regional Coach of the Year and Pac-12 Coach of the Year are signals of what the team is expecting, added to the overall success of 2013, such as scoring the program's second-highest score in history and remaining ranked for multiple weeks in the season.
"The athletes coming back now know what we're capable of. They know what it takes, and we have a lot of talented freshmen coming in that are going to push them really hard. It's going to be a super competitive environment. It will be a brand new chapter," Howell said. "We love the competition, and we love to be out there and represent Cal and be with this team."