Bordas Wins Uneven Bars National Title
FORT WORTH, Texas – California women's gymnastics totaled their best team score at the NCAA Championships in school history, but they're fourth rotation comeback fell short. The Bears finished in third place at the NCAA Championship Semifinals, just .075 behind top-ranked Florida for the final spot to qualify for tomorrow's finale.
Junior Maya Bordas, competing in her home state, won the individual national championship on the uneven bars, sharing the title with Maile O'Keefe of Utah, who recorded a 9.95 in the second semifinal. Bordas recorded a 9.95 score, which was .025 better than anyone else in the first semifinal. The Austin native was fourth in Cal's lineup and she executed her routine to perfection. She had to wait out the second semifinal, but her score held up for the entire meet as she became Cal's first-ever NCAA Champion.
"I think that's one of the best bar routines that Maya has ever done," co-head coach Elisabeth Crandall-Howell said. "She's been working really hard on body posture on her landing of her dismount. Everything else on the interior of the bar routine has been fantastic and sometimes the thing that can get inconsistent with her is the body posture on the landing. That was by far the best dismount that she's ever done. Her bar routine was beautiful and she capped it off with total ownership and control of the landing."
Cal finished with a 197.3625 score, the 10th-best total in school history and a school record for the NCAA Championship, besting the 196.5000 mark that Cal scored on their last visit in 2018. Michigan won the semifinal with a 197.8625 score, Florida took second at 197.4375, while Minnesota finished in fourth with a 197.1875 mark. Oklahoma (198.0875) and Utah (197.600) advanced out of the semifinal. Alabama (197.5750) and LSU (197.5625) finished in third and fourth.
Cal entered the final rotation with a .288 deficit to Florida for the second qualifying spot, but the Bears made Florida work until the final routine of an eventful Friday at Dickies Arena. Florida's final rotation was on vault, as they finished with a 49.225, while the Bears were on beam. Cal posted the fourth-best beam score in school history at 49.4375 thanks to three 9.90+ scores.
Nevaeh DeSouza posted a 9.9125 from the second spot in the rotation, then Andi Li posted a 9.85 and Kyana George followed with a 9.925, which tied for second amongst competitors in the first semifinal, heading into the final routine of the evening. With Florida having finished, Cal needed a perfect 10 from Emi Watterson to advance. Watterson gave a stunning routine, including a double wolf-turn, and earned a 9.9125 score. Watterson and DeSouza finished in a tie for fifth. George's score ranks as the best performance on beam by a Cal student-athlete at the NCAA Championship, while Watterson and DeSouza are tied for second.
"We knew that they were upset that they wouldn't be competing on the final night, because that's been their goal all season," co-head coach Justin Howell said. "I said, 'I hope that when you walk out of here you can hold your head up high like champions.' Just the degree of difficulty that we've been through this year. They should look back and draw upon what they did today and the champions' mindset that they exhibited and that's going to help them in other situations in life. We told them how proud we are of them and that they're champions in every single way today, and we're proud of everything they've done this year."
The Bears started their afternoon on floor exercise as all five Bears posted a 9.85 or above. Cal tied for the sixth best floor rotation in school history and the best at the NCAA Championship with a 49.425 score. Grace Quinn and Bordas led off with identical 9.85 scores, but that was only the beginning for the Bears. Milan Clausi followed with a 9.8625 and Andi Li recorded a 9.8875. George posted a 9.90 and DeSouza anchored the lineup with a career-high 9.925 mark. DeSouza, George and Li had the top three scores in school history while Clausi finished in a tie for fourth with the former record at 9.8625.
Cal moved to vault, where DeSouza again led the way. The sophomore, who was competing in her first NCAA Championship event, posted a 9.8875. That mark ranked as the top score at the NCAA Championship by a Bear and placed her fourth amongst all of the competitors in the first semifinal.
In addition to Bordas' stellar uneven bars routine, Cal received excellent performances up and down the lineup. Alma Kuc took fourth place at the semifinal with a 9.9125 score and Li finished in seventh with a 9.8875 score. Bordas and Kuc had the top two NCAA Championship scores in school history on bars, while Andi Li tied for third.
The Bears were in second place after the first rotation, trailing Michigan. They dropped to third place, just .050 behind Florida at the halfway point of the meet. Florida extended their lead to .288 after three rotations, but the Bears mounted a comeback on the fourth rotation, but fell just .075 short of Florida.
Prior to the start of the NCAA Championship semifinal, Cal was pulled out of warm ups due to a COVID-related concern. However, the issue was resolved and all of Cal's student-athletes were cleared to compete.
"I have to tell you that our team is prepared for scenarios like this," Howell said. "We do so many interesting things in practice so that they're always prepared for anything to happen. If there was a team that can handle that kind of stop-and-start adversity that we had today, our Bears were the team that could do it."
The Bears concluded their season Friday with the best NCAA Championship performance in school history after a regular season filled with multiple school records and amazing performances.
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