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Bears Finish As National Runner-Ups

April 21, 2024

FORT WORTH, Texas – From virtual irrelevance to the doorstep of a national championship, the scene at Dickies Arena on Saturday afternoon was not lost on Cal women's gymnastics co-head coach Justin Howell.

The Golden Bears finished as runner-ups at the 2024 NCAA Championships, narrowly finishing second to national champion LSU with a team score of 197.850. It was a culmination of a record-bashing season for the Golden Bears, who among other benchmarks won their first-ever outright regular season conference title this season.

"Given every challenge and obstacle that has been in our way every step of the way, to be here competing for a national championship on the final night and finish as runner-up to an amazing LSU team – there really are no words," said Howell, who took over the program in 2013 and became co-head coach with wife Liz Crandall-Howell in 2018 after she spent six years on the Bears' coaching staff. "I never doubted the vision that Liz and I set out with when we started coaching together. To get to a place where everybody – not just our team, but everyone else around the country – believed we can compete with the very best is a special place to be. We knew it wouldn't happen overnight."

The Bears finished the 2012 season ranked 49th in the country, the year before Howell took over as head coach. Two seasons later, Cal was a top-20 team and now has finished in the top 10 in each of the past five years.

The Golden Bears were led by another phenomenal performance by sophomore eMjae Frazier, who scored at least 9.9 on each of the four rotations. Junior Mya Lauzon tied as vault winner with a 9.95.

Fellow Pac-12 foe Utah placed third with a 197.800 and Florida was fourth at 197.4375.

"Our expectation now is to certainly compete with the very best on the final night of the national championships," Howell said. "This experience will be invaluable to everyone returning on the team. They know what it takes and what it feels like. I think as a program we have learned a lot. This is the expectation moving forward."

The Bears began the meet with a strong balance beam score of 49.4750, led by Frazier's 9.95. After a 49.3750 on the floor exercise dropped them to third, the Bears finished up with terrific rotations on both vault and the uneven bars, notching a 49.500 on each. Frazier (9.9375) and freshman Kyen Mayhew (9.9) led the way on vault while Frazier (9.9125), senior Gabby Perea (9.9125) and junior Maddie Williams (9.90).

Cal moved past Utah and into second place with its final bars scores.

The Bears will lose Perea and fellow seniors Andi Li and Elise Byun from this year's season but returns a core that should make the program one of the national favorites again next season. Li and Perea were both All-Americans.

"I'm incredibly proud of our seniors," Howell said. "They are incredibly talented and were recruited by a lot of phenomenal schools. They chose to come to Cal and be part of this journey, and they will have memories the rest of their lives."

Bears Finish As National Runner-Ups

1,265 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 26 days ago by DWM81
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Wow ... how special is this???
"Cults don't end well. They really don't."
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Freakin' AWESOME!!!!!
It's the future that's always bright at Cal......
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Great season Bears! Congrats all around.
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Phenomenal...Did Cal Men's Gymnastics win the Natty about 15 years ago...?
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