2019 Preview – Cal Golden Bears

  • Made final 2018 lineups on UB, BB, FX
  • #2 returning routine on BB
  • RQS of 9.880 BB, 9.830 UB, 9.820 FX
  • Made final 2018 lineups on VT, FX
  • RQS of 9.810 VT, 9.805 FX
Chelsea Shu
  • Made final 2018 lineup on BB for 9.840
  • Also competed 8 FXs (9.805 RQS), 3 UBs
Toni-Ann Williams
  • Returning for 5th year in 2019
  • Competed AA in 11 of 14 meets in 2018
  • Missed Worlds with elbow injury
  • RQS of 9.935 FX, 9.895 VT, 9.895 BB, 9.865 UB
Cassidy Keelen
  • Made final 2018 lineups on VT, BB
  • RQS of 9.835 BB, 9.820 VT
  • Competed 3 FXs for peak score of 9.775
  • Competed 7 VTs in 2018 with a peak of 9.825
Kyana George
  • Competed AA every week in 2018
  • Top-3 returning score on all 4 events
  • RQS of 9.860-9.865 on each piece
Alma Kuc
  • Competed 10 UBs in 2018 for RQS of 9.855
  • Hit 8-for-10, peak score of 9.925
  • Did not compete in 2018
Victoria Salem
  • Missed 2018 season with knee injury
  • Potential UB, BB star
Nina Schank
  • Competed UB every week in 2018
  • #1 returning UB score (9.905)
  • Showed 1 VT (9.625) and exhibition FX
Emi Watterson
  • Joined UB lineup at end of 2018
  • Hit 5-for-5 for average of 9.838
Maya Bordas
  • Capital
  • 1st AA, 2017 JO Nationals
Talitha Jones
  • Precision
  • 6th AA, 2017 JO Nationals
  • 10.0-start Y1.5 on VT
Milan Clausi

  • Olympus
  • 2nd AA, 2018 JO Nationals
  • 10.0-start Y1.5 on VT
Grace Quinn
  • Texas Dreams
  • US elite, 2013-2015
  • Has barely competed since 2015
Abi Solari
  • GB
  • Has 10.0-start Hs tuck 1/1 on VT

2018 – 9th
2017 – 16th
2016 – 7th
2015 – 18th
2014 – 16th
2013 – 28th
2012 – 49th
2011 – 50th
2010 – 55th
2009 – 57th

Cal’s ascent has been remarkable in its speed and slope. From a “you could try Sears”-style punchline when I started this site, Cal has risen to become the #3 team in the Pac-12 and a no-longer-shocking entrant in the national top 10.

For this upcoming season, the question is whether Cal will stay in the same position or make that next leap into the top tier, and in that regard, the new postseason format presents a sort of artificially imposed moment of truth (and we know how I’m all about those). For those teams nestled in the 7-12 ranking group, some will rise and continue to reach nationals, and others just won’t be able to keep pace. Which group are you in?

In that race, Cal remains an underdog against the more nationally established, been-good-forever programs like Michigan and Nebraska, but for a team that finished 9th last season and will get markedly better in 2019, reaching nationals remains an utterly realistic aim.

VAULT 2019
Lineup locks: Toni-Ann Williams, Milan Clausi, Kyana George
Lineup options: Abi Solari, Talitha Jones, Maya Bordas, Sylvia Seilnacht, Cassidy Keelen, Rachel Mastrangelo

Cal is ramping up its supply of 10.0 starts for 2019 and will use those vaults to improve on an event that was already its best-scoring piece last season. Most important in that batch of new 10.0s will be the gorgeous Y1.5 from Milan Clausi, a vault that has the form to be a lineup leader and earn weekly 9.9s. Expect Clausi to be joined by Abi Solari with her handspring front tuck 1/1, a supremely difficult vault to land but one that has been looking increasingly impressive in preseason training.

The wildcard among the new 10.0 vaults comes from Talitha Jones, who has a massive Y1.5 that Cal will really want in lineup—as long as it’s worth it. Because of some built-in knee deductions, it may not outscore the cleaner fulls on the roster, but it could be used as a table-setter to bump up the scores for those cleaner fulls.

Returning to the lineup from last season will be Toni-Ann Williams, who missed the elite summer/fall with an elbow injury but will be a lineup lock when healthy. The question for Williams is always whether to go for the 1.5 and risk a troubling landing or play it safe with the full, but her vault is necessary either way. We’ll also see Kyana George, who vaults the kind of exceptional full that can score 9.900 despite its start value.

The rest of the roster should present more than enough viable, 9.8+ fulls to fill out the last lineup spot or replace a 10.0 start if the landing isn’t there. I’m partial to the options from Bordas and Sylvie Seilnacht.

BARS 2019
Lineup locks: Nina Schank, Kyana George, Toni-Ann Williams
Lineup options: Alma Kuc, Victoria Salem, Maya Bordas, Milan Clausi, Emi Watterson, Sofie Seilnacht, Chelsea Shu

If Cal is going to make the big leap this season, bars development is critical. It won’t be enough to maintain the level from last year, even though the lineup was pretty good. It has the potential to be “shut up!” good this season if everything comes together just right. The determining factors in that regard will be two sophomores, Alma Kuc and Victoria Salem.

Salem missing her first season with a knee-splosion was an under-discussed blow to Cal in 2018, but she entered as a JO star on bars with an exceptionally precise routine. She could provide a lineup-leading score if she’s back and healthy for 2019. Alma Kuc is an All-Olympia refugee who also happens to be an L-grip queen, but inconsistency meant she didn’t even make the final lineup last season. Cal will need to find a way to get that routine working because it really should be a 9.9+. While the team could comfortably come up with a depth-option 9.825 to replace her score again this year, it’s not the same.

Those two routines have the potential to take this lineup from good to special because Cal returns a fairly frequent 9.9 from Nina Schank and lineup stalwart sets from George and Williams, before even getting into the solid routines from freshmen Bordas and Clausi or last season’s Australian wonder Emi Watterson, who was consistent for 9.825-9.850s once she entered the lineup.

Cal will have enough 9.850s to make up a perfectly competitive bars lineup. What we’ll have to watch is whether enough of those rare-bird 9.9s come to fruition to make it truly exceptional.

BEAM 2019
Lineup locks: Sofie Seilnacht, Kyana George, Toni-Ann Williams
Lineup options: Maya Bordas, Milan Clausi, Cassidy Keelen, Chelsea Shu, Victoria Salem, Emi Watterson

Like the other events, Cal’s beam lineup will welcome the addition of Bordas and Clausi this year. Beam typically proved a big score for both in JO, Clausi pairing power with leaps for consistent wins, and Bordas showing the leap extension and acro options to make her a likely pick for an NCAA routine. Having lost just one routine from last year’s final beam lineup and bringing in these two, the opportunity for an upgrade here is also ripe.

Beam is Sofie Seilnacht’s best event—she anchored the lineup last season—and Toni-Ann Williams showed a marked improvement in her consistency last season to notch the team’s best beam RQS after being a borderline lineup member in her earlier years. I also expect to see Kyana George back in the lineup. She performed well on beam for a 9.860 RQS last season and has the built-in tools to continue improving on that mark.

I’m hoping Cassidy Keelen makes it back to the lineup. She has so much ability, but the scores haven’t come consistently and there will be competition for those spots this season, particularly from someone like Chelsea Shu. Shu didn’t miss a beam routine all of 2018. Especially if there are a couple beam stars at the end of the lineup delivering 9.9s this year, Cal won’t necessary feel it needs to take a big risk in the other spots and may opt for consistency.

FLOOR 2019
Lineup locks: Toni-Ann Williams, Kyana George, Milan Clausi
Lineup options: Maya Bordas, Abi Solari, Sylvie Seilnacht, Sofie Seilnacht, Chelsea Shu, Cassidy Keelen, Talitha Jones

If there’s one place. Cal had its moments on floor in 2018, but when it came to direct comparisons against the top teams, floor was the event that most often paled. Cal’s margin behind Utah in the national semifinals was almost entirely due to floor, and at Pac-12s, Cal beat UCLA on vault and bars and beat Utah on beam, but lost out to both on floor by a rather hefty margin.

While all 10.0-start floor routines are supposed to be created equal, we all know what happens to rudi-routines from non-famouses going up 2nd once the postseason arrives. To keep up on floor, Cal will need to inject a little more big in 2019.

Williams is of course essential as an anchor 9.9+, George will be a major factor again with 9.9 potential herself, and Cal will hope that Clausi is the one to bring that new big with her full-in. I’m also looking to Abi Solari, who showed the requisite passes in her British elite days, and Maya Bordas to get opportunities in the six to provide some lineup-refresh and see if they can drive up those scores. But it wouldn’t be a Cal floor lineup without at least a Seilnacht or two or seven, right? Right.

Because of the freshmen, I do expect Cal’s floor scores to increase in 2019, but by enough? That we don’t know. That’s something Cal still needs to prove.

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