BERKELEY – Dazzling the crowd in their signature blue and gold with added pink accents, the No. 21 Golden Bears looked not only pretty but powerful in their Pretty in Pink breast cancer awareness meet as for the second week in a row, Cal put together an outstanding team performance to sweep every event title and top No. 24 Washington and Sacramento State with a 196.425. Cal improves to 7-5 and 1-4 in the Pac-12 after surpassing Washington’s 195.0 and Sac State’s 193.425.
“We had a great night, I was really proud,” said Cal head coach Justin Howell. “We’ve been working on putting four events together, we did that in our last meet and that was our goal again tonight. I think we’re starting to believe in ourselves. Every time we go out and put four events together, it’s another notch up in the confidence belt.”
Cal’s 196.425 is the second-highest score the Bears have posted this year, only behind last week’s 196.725 vs. Sac State and San Jose State. The Bears earned a 49.0+ on each event and recorded a new season-best team score on balance beam with a 49.175.
Cal started on vault and earned its second-highest team total of the season with a 49.075. Senior Alicia Asturias and sophomore Serena Leong tied with Sac State’s Kalliah McCartney for the vault title, each earning a 9.85. Sophomore Kristina Heymann competed for the first time this season, earning a 9.725.
“I felt like I needed to make a change in the vault lineup to start us off with a good hit vault, and Kristina warmed up great so I gave her that opportunity,” Howell said. “She has the desire and the will, and she wants it so bad. There was no way she wasn’t going to hit that vault, and that’s what I love about her.”
The Bears moved to the uneven bars, where the team tallied a 49.0. Senior Dallas Crawford won the bars title with a new career-best 9.875, while Asturias tied for second with a score of 9.825.
Cal’s season-best 49.175 beam total was led by Leong, who earned the event title and a new career-high with a 9.9. It is the third time in two weeks Leong has upped her career-best on an event after posting new highs of 9.925 on both vault and floor last week. Freshman Jessica Howe and Crystal Paz finished just behind Leong with scores of 9.875. That mark was enough to tie Paz’s career-best.
“Jessie Howe’s beam routine was ‘wow’,” Howell said. “Our whole beam lineup really was ‘wow’ tonight. Meets are won and lost on beam. If you can stay on the beam and hit six solid routines, you can win meets. We’re doing that, so I give a lot of credit, not just to the athletes, but to Liz and Jessa who coach that event every single day.”
The Bears finished on the floor, where they earned a 49.175, their second-highest team total of the season. Freshman Desiree Palomares recorded a new career-best with a 9.8, while Asturias tied for third in the event and matched her season-high with a 9.85. Leong, who has been battling tendinitis, took the event title with an electric 9.9 routine.
“Serena brings it every weekend,” Howell said. “For her to be able to come in, put her injury aside, and knock out three great events tonight was outstanding. She brings so much energy and draws you in, I always get lost in her routines.”
Asturias won the seven-person all-around event with a 39.275, while Howe placed third with a 39.175 and freshman Charlie Owens finish just behind with a 39.150.
“To have three all-arounders that are scoring 39.0+ at almost every meet is great,” Howell said. “That’s half of our lineup on every single event, so to know that we have those solid scores again just brings a lot of confidence to the rest of the lineup. They amaze me.”
Cal received an added boost from the ‘pink’ crowd at Haas Pavilion tonight, as the Bears celebrated “Pretty in Pink” night in support of the breast cancer awareness movement and its survivors.
“I’m excited that we started the ‘Pretty in Pink’ theme and it’ll be a good tradition that we bring every year,” Howell said. “We were competing for everybody that couldn’t and wants to tonight, so that meant a lot. It’s a great cause and I hope we brought some awareness. We had a great crowd tonight, and a lot of pink.”
Pac-12 competition continues as the Bears head to Stanford to face off against the Cardinal on Monday, March 3. The meet begins at 7 p.m.
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