The Cal women’s gymnastics team, ranked No. 5 nationally and coming off its finest regular season, will try to deliver an historic performance at the NCAA Championships Friday and Saturday at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Bears will compete against three other schools in Friday’s semifinal round, hoping to secure two bids into the Saturday finals. Competing in the NCAAs for just the fourth time ever but the their time in the past six years, Cal has never made it to the finals.
Getting there this time won’t be easy.
Included in Cal’s semifinal grouping are No. 2 Florida, No. 4 Michigan and No. 8 Minnesota. Michigan beat the Bears at the recent Morgantown NCAA regional competition, from which both teams qualified for this weekend.
The other semifinal group features top-seeded Oklahoma, No. 3 LSU, No. 6 Utah and No. 7 Alabama.
Friday’s semifinal competition begins at 10 a.m. PT and will be shown on ESPN2. Saturday’s championship round begins at 12:30 p.m. on ABC.
Oklahoma would appear to be the heavy favorite. The Sooners have won the past two and three of the past four national titles, and were runner-up the other time. LSU was runner-up three times the past four NCAA meets.
Utah was runner-up in 2016 and has won nine national championships, most recently in 1995.
Co-coaches Justin Howell and Elisabeth Crandall-Howell have directed the Bears to an impressive season. Cal set program records on uneven bars, balance beam, floor exercise and has posted four of the top five team scores in school history, including the top three.
The Bears’ No. 5 national ranking is the best in school history. Nevaeh DeSouza (All-Around), Kyana George (Floor), Nina Schank (Uneven Bars) and Andi Li (Uneven Bars) earned second-team WCGA All-America honors.
Cal will compete for team honors, but athletes will also have the chance to chose titles in the four individual events — the floor exercise, balance beam, uneven bars and vault.
MEN'S GYMNASTICS: The Cal men’s team, ranked No. 11 nationally, will compete at the NCAA Championships Friday and Saturday at Maturi Pavilion on the University of Minnesota campus.
The Bears will compete in a Friday 5 p.m. PT session also including No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Stanford, No. 6 Penn State, No. 7 Iowa and No. 10 Minnesota. Top-ranked Oklahoma goes in the earlier afternoon semifinal session.
The top three teams from each semifinal group advance to the Saturday finals, which begin at 5 p.m. PT
Cal finished fourth at the MPSF Championships early this month and is led by team captain Caleb Rickard.
This is the Bears’ seventh straight trip to the NCAA men’s gymnastics championships. Cal has won four NCAA team titles, most recently with back-to-back crowns in 1997-98. Since then, the Bears have finished among the top five 11 times.
Cover photo of Nevaeh DeSouza by Al Sermeno, KLC fotos
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo