The SPU gymnasts walked into the gym at UC Davis, a place they go every year, like they have many times before. They even walked in with their heads held a little higher, having just set the school record just a week earlier — at Royal Brougham Pavilion while honoring their seniors.
They knew the gym, they knew their potential and they knew they needed a high road score in order to help their battle for nationals. Everything was set for them to do something great.
The Falcons did not disappoint.
The squad absolutely crushed the record score they had set just a week before and also shattered the 194-point mark — something they had been trying to do all season — posting a 194.575 on Friday, a remarkable achievement for a Division-II school, setting record highs in three of the four events.
“Before the meet, I met with the team and said, ‘I’m really feeling a 194,” sophomore Maria Hundley said. “We are making a lot of changes for the better. I knew we were going to hit a 194 this year.”
The team set the phenomenal score behind a solid performance on all four events. The team started on the bars, went to vault, then floor and finished on the beam. The Falcons scored above a 48 on all four events, as well as a remarkable 48.975 on the floor behind two 9.825s from senior Kai Tindall and freshman Lauren Glover. Hundley also won the vault with the meet’s top score, 9.850.
“I really love vault,” Hundley said. “I’ve worked on different vaults my whole life. All summer I worked on new techniques on the vault [that would] separate myself from the others.”
Another achievement from this meet is that the team counted no falls for the first time all season, something that had been on the checklist all year, which gave them a huge chunk of points toward their massive score.
“Hitting 24 for 24 [on dismounts] has been a goal for us all season,” junior Sydney Clark said. “After the first event, we had hit all five, and that’s what you want to do. Failure isn’t an option.”
The team started with a solid 48.800, the best score of the season for them. Five Falcons scored above a 9.500, including a team high of 9.850 from freshman Tracie Villanueva — the highest bar score for the Falcons this season, and good enough for third overall in the event.
“I definitely got the vibe that we were more confident walking into that gym,” Hundley said. “Even though we are Division II, [I feel that] we are the same level. We are more confident and more relaxed — enjoying our time to compete and being thankful.”
The team then went onto the vault with their heads held high after they had just beaten their team high score on the uneven bars. The team set a 48.275 on that event, behind Hundley’s massive 9.850.
“When you start off on a good event, it gets the ball rolling,” Clark said. “We started off really well on bars and just kept going.”
The next event — the floor — was a breeze. The team has dominated week in and week out in this area. They showed no change as they posted an incredible 48.975, setting another team record with every score being a 9.500 or higher.
“I feel like we have home court at [UC] Davis when it comes to floor,” head coach Laurel Tindall said.
The team then moved on to their fourth and final event — and one that they have had their fair share of struggles with — the beam. But this time around, they showed no fear of the event as they posted a 48.525, with all the Falcons scoring above a 9.100.
All in all, the Falcons finished with undoubtedly the season’s best performance — three team highs on four events, a huge road score and the satisfaction of crushing the record they had just set by .625.
However, the team is not taking this for granted, and they certainly know there is much more work than anything else if they have hopes of ending the season where they want to.
“All the girls know there are still improvements,” Tindall said. “This is the point in the season where everyone’s scores are going up, and in order to stay in the game, we are going to have to try just as hard [as everyone else].”
The team knows another scary aspect is seeing teams crash after a huge score — letting it go to their heads and not recovering. That is something that they are working hard to prevent.
“We definitely don’t want it to be a one-hit wonder,” Clark said. “We still made mistakes on Friday. We can hit better than we did on Friday. There are improvements to be made. Failure isn’t an option.”
The team will have a chance to implement those improvements during their next meet this Friday where they hit the road again for a battle with Division-I power Boise State.