FORT WORTH, Texas – After doing all she could while competing at the 2021 NCAA national championship meet all Maya Bordas could do was sit back to see where the chips would fall.
That was the most agonizing part.
After posting a 9.95 on the uneven bars during the first semifinal of the recent national meet in Fort Worth, Texas, University of California junior watched as the second semifinal round unfolded to see where she would finish in the final standings.
The result was worth the wait.
Bordas’ score was enough to allow her to make history as she became the first woman in the history of the California program to win an NCAA championship.
“I think that’s one of the best bar routines (Bordas) has ever done,” Cal 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 she’s ever done,” Howell added. “Her bar routine was beautiful and she capped it off with total ownership and control of the landing.”
The new national champion tried to downplay the significance of her achievement could contain the excitement for just so long.
“I am happy with the routine,” Bordas said the day after making program history. “I wanted to put it all out there and do all I could for the team. I was hoping for at least a 9.8.”
That was as long as she could refrain from basking in history.
“I think the routine was one of my best,” she said, “ … the 9.95 did feel good.”
But even after seeing her score go up on the board she was still left to ponder her chances.
During the second semifinal Utah’s Maile O’Keefe matched Bordas’ score to share the national title.
“I had no idea that I had become the school’s first national championship … but it’s really cool,” said Bordas, a native of Austin, Texas, who was competing for a national crown in her home state.
The California team saw its season come to a close on the first night of the championship meet.
The Bears finished with a 197.3625, the best mark in program history at the national meet and the 10th-best mark ever at the school.
But it wasn’t enough.
Michigan, which would go on to win the national championship the following night, won the first semifinal with a 197.8625 and top-ranked Florida edged the Bears for second place after scoring a 197.4375. The top two teams from each semifinal moved on to compete for the national championship.
Minnesota (197.1875) placed fourth behind the Bears.
Oklahoma and Utah advanced out of the second semifinal after posting scores of 198.0875 and 197.600, respectively. Alabama (197.5750) and LSU (197.5625) also competed in the national meet.
“After everything that everyone has been through in the past year and with the uncertainty of whether there was even going to be a season, we just wanted to make the most of our opportunity,” said Bordas of the Bears’ approach all season.
“We all wanted to be out there on the second day (of nationals),” she added.
The first night of the national meet did more than just determine which teams moved on to the final round. It also determined the nation’s top individual performers.
The Bears were well represented there as well and eclipsed yet another score mark.
Prior to this season Cal had earned seven All-American honors by five different athletes in program history.
With Bordas leading the way six Bears combined for nine All-American finishes in Fort Worth, including four first-team honors.
The top four finishers on each event are recognized as first-team All-Americans while the next four are accorded second-team honors.
Cal standout Nevaeh DeSouza led the way for the Bears with four All-American finishes. She earned first-team on vault (9.875) with her fourth-place finish and earned second-team honors on beam, floor and the all-around. She scored 9.9125 on beam and 9.925 on floor exercise to place fifth and sixth, respectively. Her 39.525 total was enough for eighth place in the all-around.
DeSouza was one of three Cal gymnasts to earn All-American honors on beam. Kyana George finished tied for second with a 9.925, while Emi Watterson matched DeSouza with a 9.9125 score and a fifth-place finish.
Bordas led a trio of Bears on bars as Alma Kuc and Andi Li placed fourth and seventh with scores of 9.925 and 9.8875, respectively.
Oklahoma sensation Anastasia Webb earned All-America honors on all four events and was able to keep the all-around title in Norman for a third consecutive year by scoring a 39.7875 to take top honors.
She also shared the top spot in vault with LSU’s Haleigh Bryant with a 9.975 and tallied a 9.9625 to finish in a three-way tie with O’Keefe and Alabama’s Lexi Graber. Webb scored a 9.9125 on bars and posted a 9.9375 on beam.
The Sooners had six athletes combine for 15 All-America finishes.
Individual National Champions:
Bars: Maya Bordas, California & Maile O’Keefe, Utah (9.95).
Beam: Luisa Blanco, Alabama (9.9625).
Floor: Lexi Graber, Alabama; Maile O’Keefe, Utah & Anastasia Webb, Oklahoma (9.9625)
Vault: Haleigh Bryant, LSU & Anastasia Webb, Oklahoma (9.975).
All-Around: Anastasia Webb, Oklahoma (39.7875)
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.