The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

2022 Cal Bears

CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS

Super Seniors

Kyana George

  • Torn Achilles in September

Nina Schank

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • #1 returning score on UB (9.931)

  • #3 returning score on VT (9.856)

  • Competed 5 FXs (NQS 9.744), 1 BB (9.550) in 2021

Emi Watterson

UB
BB

  • #4 returning score on BB (9.863)

  • #6 returning score on UB (9.738)

  • Scored 10.000 on UB in 2021

Seniors

Maya Bordas

VT
UB

BB
FX

  • #3 returning score on UB (9.906), FX (9.875), BB (9.881)

  • #5 returning score on VT (9.819)

Milan Clausi

VT
BB
FX

  • #2 returning score on FX (9.881)

  • #4 returning score on BB (9.863), VT (9.838)

Talitha Jones

BB

  • Did not compete in 2021

  • 2020 NQS of 9.795 BB

  • 2020 avg 9.800 UB, 9.742 VT

Grace Quinn

FX

  • #1 returning score on FX (9.894)

Abi Solari

VT
FX

  • Competed 1 VT (9.750), 1 FX (9.625) in 2021

Juniors

Nevaeh DeSouza

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • #1 returning score on VT (9.919), BB (9.894)

  • #3 returning score on UB (9.906), FX (9.875)

Maya Green

UB
FX

  • Competed 4 UBs in 2021, NQS of 9.800

  • Competed 3 FXs, avg 9.833

Natalie Sadighi

VT

  • Competed 6 VTs in 2021, avg 9.800

Sophomores

Elise Byun

VT
FX

  • Did not compete in first season

Blake Gozashti

BB

  • Did not compete in first season

Andi Li

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • #2 returning score on UB (9.925), BB (9.888), VT (9.863)

  • Competed 7 FXs in 2021, NQS of 9.613

Gabby Perea

UB
BB

  • Did not compete in 2021

  • Showed exhibition on BB

First Years

Ella Cesario

VT
UB
FX

  • Legacy Elite

  • 1st UB, 3rd AA, 2019 L10s

Jordan Kane

BB
FX

  • Aim High

  • 1st BB, 2019 Regionals

Mya Lauzon

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • Metropolitan

  • 1st VT, 4th BB, 4th FX, 2021 L10s

Abbey Scanlon

BB
FX

  • Legacy Elite

  • 8th BB, 2021 L10s

  • Junior elite, 2016-2018

Madelyn Williams

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • Dream Xtreme

  • 1st AA, 2019 L10s

  • Junior/senior elite, 2017-2018

RANKING HISTORY
2021 – 7th
2020 – 9th
2019 – 11th
2018 – 9th
2017 – 16th
2016 – 7th
2015 – 18th
2014 – 16th
2013 – 28th
2012 – 49th

2021 IN REVIEW

The main goal for Cal in 2021 would have been to return to nationals after barely missing out in 2019, so mission #1 accomplished. That Cal matched the program record with 7th-place finish, capping off a season in which the team also tied the all-time NCAA bars record with a 49.825, scored 198 for the very first time, and got its first individual national champion with Maya Bordas on bars, only reinforces what a successful year it was. 

DEPARTED ROUTINES

Alma Kuc – UB

THE NEW ONES

Cal is looking at a high-quality new class of five, all of whom should provide multiple event options, if not multiple final-lineup routines. This class is somewhat under the radar because of all the elite names scattered around the country, but there are a bunch of 9.9s lurking in this group. 

Madelyn Williams spent some time as an elite in 2017 and 2018 and made waves for her beautiful extension on bars and beam, which she continued to L10 when she won nationals in 2019. The COVID seasons proved more of a struggle for Williams, but if she can compete in college like she did in L10 in 2019 (and intrasquad videos seem to indicate that she can), then we’re looking at possible all-around contribution from her, with some of the highest scores on the team on bars and beam.

Another who excelled in the L10 ranks in Mya Lauzon, coming one bars fall away from an AA medal in her division at nationals this year. Her most important contribution will be a Yurchenko 1.5 that could be tops on the team, but she’s similarly good on beam and looks believable to make the lineup on any event.

Ella Cesario, meanwhile, is a 2019 L10 champion on bars whom you’d consider a sure bet if it weren’t just so hard to get into this bars lineup. Cal will probably also want to get a floor out of her because she has some strong tumbling options. Another the team will like to see on floor is Abbey Scanlon, a long-time elite who can bring out the big passes and match them with the kind of leaps that also make her beam look compelling. Jordan Kane has not enjoyed the L10 results of the rest of the class, but there’s some real gymnastics there. She certainly has the tools on beam and can twist up a storm on floor.

2022 PROJECTION

Improvement.

Cal was hoping only to add routines this year to an already strong roster, but the Achilles injury to Kyana George that will keep her out of the 2022 season means that lineup-best scores do need replacing on floor, vault, and beam. That will undermine to some degree how much the roster can grow this season, but even so, Cal should enjoy an overall increase in depth and the introduction of enough top-quality routines to keep the team knocking on the door of the big time.

During this half-decade of firsts, something Cal has yet to do is reach the national championship in consecutive seasons. That will be the absolute expectation for this team that shouldn’t experience a backslide from last year’s results.

BY EVENT

VAULT

2021 Event Ranking: 9

Lineup locks: Nevaeh DeSouza, Mya Lauzon, Milan Clausi, Andi Li, Nina Schank
Lineup options: Maya Bordas, Natalie Sadighi, Abi Solari, Madelyn Williams, Ella Cesario, Elise Byun

Now, 10.0 starts aren’t everything on vault, but with all of these top teams sniffing around the possibility of having a full lineup of 10.0s, Cal may struggle to keep pace with what the popular girls table is doing. Ultimately, it was that 49.150 on vault more than anything else that kept Cal from being able to upset Florida in the national semifinals last year. Two developments will be essential to Cal staying close enough on vault in 2022: 1) Getting Mya Lauzon into this lineup. Her Y1.5 is high and clean in the air and should score very well. 2) Getting Milan Clausi back to her previous vaulting level. She has gone 9.950 for her Y1.5 before, but she didn’t have that vault last season, and Cal definitely missed it. If those two are joining Nevaeh DeSouza’s returning Y1.5, Cal will at least have the tools to stay in sight of the top teams. If not, vault could be a problem this year.

There will be some Yfulls in the lineup, so Andi Li and Nina Schank seem like clear bets to return given how well they were both scoring for stuck fulls toward the end of last season—9.850s and sometimes 9.900s. Natalie Sadighi made the final lineup last year and could again, Maya Bordas will always be an option, and Madelyn Williams should be able to provide a full around a similar level in terms of the options to fill out a lineup. Plus the requisite note that if Abi Solari can go, she does have that handspring pike 1/2 at a 10.0 start, but it has been a long time of ifs with that vault.

BARS

2021 Event Ranking: 1

Lineup locks: Emi Watterson, Nina Schank, Maya Bordas, Andi Li, Nevaeh DeSouza, Madelyn Williams
Lineup options: Maya Green, Gabby Perea, Mya Lauzon, Ella Cesario

When the national bars champion is the #3 lock in a lineup, things are probably going pretty well. Cal ranked first on bars last season and certainly has the potential to repeat the feat in 2022. The lineup does lose some by not having Alma Kuc, who didn’t compete every week but could go over 9.9 on her day, or the option from Kyana George (who wasn’t in the final six in 2021), but should have the routines to replace those scores pretty comfortably. 

Among the returning gymnasts, Watterson, Schank, Bordas, Li, and DeSouza should all be locks for the lineup and, when they stick a dismount, will be expecting a bare minimum 9.900, if not 9.950. That quintet went 9.9+ on 48% of bars routines last season. They simply don’t give away handstand deductions. Much like watching Oklahoma on beam in the years when Oklahoma was just emerging as the new threat, Cal has figured out exactly what works on bars and is going to do it more beautifully and satisfyingly than the others and dare you to find a deduction.  

In terms of a sixth member of the lineup, I’d favor Madelyn Williams to join the gang because she has those same satisfying handstands going for her and will put up an extended, deduction-minimal routine. But, Maya Green has gone a number of times for good scores and would make the lineup on most teams, Mya Lauzon should present a solid option, Ella Cesario has a huge Ray, and don’t look now, but Gabby Perea is doing bars again. I’d say it’s not a definite yet, but she has a realistic, full-composition routine that can score well.

BEAM

2021 Event Ranking: 9

Lineup locks: Nevaeh DeSouza, Andi Li, Maya Bordas, Milan Clausi
Lineup options: Mya Lauzon, Emi Watterson, Abbey Scanlon, Madelyn Williams, Gabby Perea, Jordan Kane, Talitha Jones, Nina Schank

Cal had a good season on beam last year, especially in terms of showing solidity when it counted, not missing any routines or dropping under the 49.4 mark at any of the elimination meets. Not having Kyana George this year will hurt as she really ended up finding her beam legs in her senior season for almost exclusively 9.9s, but the first years are good enough on beam that Cal should be able to continue to improve there. It will be harder to make this lineup in 2022. 

As for those first years, Mya Lauzon looks pretty undeniable for a beam lineup given the quality of her acro series, Scanlon is potentially compelling here with an efficient routine, and we really shouldn’t be denied Williams’ leaps, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them make a lineup that also has five returners from last season who all look like they should return. DeSouza and Bordas were the most likely to get 9.9s last season, so you want them back, Li really started to develop her beam as the season progressed and seems like she will only grow into higher scores in her second season, Clausi has been the reliable mainstay at every meet all the time always (36 for 36 career on beam), and when Watterson is performing confidently, she might have the highest scoring potential of them all. 

So Cal is spoiled for choice here. This is more options than the team has enjoyed in the past, allowing the opportunity to pick and choose not just who has beautiful ability or who can stay on a beam in a meet, but who can do both. Ideally at the same time even. Also, maybe find some way to get Gabby Perea into the lineup this season. I don’t care if it requires a harpoon and a pulley system.

FLOOR

2021 Event Ranking: 6

Lineup locks: Milan Clausi, Grace Quinn, Maya Bordas, Nevaeh DeSouza, Andi Li
Lineup options: Ella Cesario, Abbey Scanlon, Madelyn Williams, Mya Lauzon, Nina Schank, Maya Green, Jordan Kane, Abi Solari,

Cal’s 6th-place ranking on floor last season was incredibly important for a team whose primary weakness in recent seasons had been underpowered floor work that was too easy to give a 9.775. Those 9.775s from the first two spots were eradicated in 2021. Cal will, however, still have to watch out for being a little too mid-range-9.8y this season given the expectations for 2022 floor scoring, and this is where not having that auto-9.950 from Kyana George will hurt the most. 

In that regard, Andi Li’s performance will be crucial this year. She started to find her floor at the end of last season (she didn’t go lower than 9.8875 for an actual hit), and getting her in there consistently for 9.9s as a lineup leader is required to keep this group competitive. In the interest of adding some bigger passes to the team, Cal will want to get Ella Cesario and her piked full-in working if she’s able to go (she did not compete in 2021), and Abbey Scanlon has the possibility of a DLO in what should be a full-package floor routine complemented by easily extended leaps. That’s where the new, improved scores might come from.

Milan Clausi will definitely return, probably still the best tumbler on this team, and Grace Quinn has made herself necessary by suddenly entering her 9.9 era in the second half of last season to become the team’s second-best floor score. Nevaeh DeSouza should be considered a similar lock even if she’s double piking instead of doing her more difficult options, and Maya Bordas is pretty much always good for a 9.850. Right alongside them, Mya Lauzon and Madelyn Williams should provide very clean options for D-pass routines that can score quite well. In sorting through these possible floor routines, Cal will have to decide whether it’s more important to go big, or whether a lineup of precise-double-pike will continuing doing the job.

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