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Davis, California

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Johnson shines in UC Davis win over San Jose State

Aggies complete season sweep of Spartans behind senior’s career performance

In its most recent road meet, the UC Davis gymnastics team accumulated a season-high score of 194.925 in a dominant performance over San Jose State. That contest set the stage for last Friday’s rematch, where the Aggies were able to carry the momentum back home to the Pavilion against the same Spartan side. Adding on to what has been a unique collegiate sports journey, senior Cammi Johnson had a night for the ages, lifting UC Davis to a 194.600-193.525 victory. 

For the first time in her collegiate career, Johnson competed as an all-arounder. She and two fellow Aggies — junior Gabby Landess and freshman Logan Clagg — competed in all four events, but it was Johnson who led the pack with a near-perfect total of 39.225 in her debut, setting the mark for the program’s highest first-time all-around total. Her score also tied that of San Jose State’s Taylor Chan for the meet’s all-around winner. Head coach John Lavallee was almost at a loss for words when describing the performance.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “I’m absolutely amazed.”

Competing in the all-around also meant that Johnson participated in events in which she had limited experience at the college level. For the first time since her high school career, Johnson competed in the floor exercise and finished third, posting a score of 9.825. Not too shabby for a first timer.

Johnson also shined in the other events, including a top finish on the vault with a 9.825. She also scored a 9.800 in a crowded battle on the balance beam, and finished as the top Aggie and second place overall on the uneven bars with a 9.775. 

It was a team effort on the way to the Aggies’ second-highest point total of the year. Freshman Rachel Schuelke amassed a season and career high of 9.850 on the beam, tying redshirt-junior teammate Alyssa Ito for third place. Sophomore Cortney Cunningham also bolstered the team’s overall score by recording a pair of third place finishes on the vault and the uneven bars

“This team is an amazing group of individuals who are there for each other every day, in every way they can be,” said Lavallee. “That’s why UC Davis Gymnastics does what we do — because of them, and because of how they go about their business.” 

Lavellee wanted to highlight the performance by Johnson and shed some light on her journey to the program. Although she was not on the team upon her arrival at UC Davis, Johnson has been an integral part in its recent success. 

“Obviously, she was very talented,” Lavallee explained. “By the time she was a senior [in high school], we had offered her a scholarship. But by the time she was a senior she had a lot of fear issues and stopped doing gymnastics altogether. She actually came to Davis and was a diver her freshman year. Then, over Christmas [break] of her sophomore year, she passed by the gym and I said to her, ‘Dude, where ya been? I haven’t seen you diving — what’s going on?’ She brushed it off and I’m like, ‘Well why don’t you come do gymnastics?’ The next day I get a long text message from her saying, ‘I don’t know if you were serious or not but if I can try to do gymnastics again, that’d be awesome.’ So I said to show up to practice.” 

Most athletes aren’t able to compete in two for different sports at the collegiate level, and even less are able to switch their sport over a year into their time at school and be successful. But for Johnson, it was all a part of the journey. The time she spent away from gymnastics didn’t seem to set her back at all. 

“She started gymnastics in January and within four weeks, she was in the lineup for vaulting, made all conference, and hasn’t done gymnastics in two and a half years,” Lavallee said. “Last year, she led the conference in vaulting and tonight she did floor exercise for the first time in five years. And she went 9.85. That’s crazy. Yeah, I’m absolutely amazed. I don’t know if it’s hit her yet, but I know she’ll sleep good tonight. She never thought she’d do gymnastics at this level so she’s beside herself.”

It was truly a night to remember for Johnson, and one that shines the spotlight a bit brighter on her noteworthy gymnastics journey. It also pinpoints the dedication of the team’s older gymnasts on a squad this is fairly young overall. 

Looking forward to the upcoming stretch of four consecutive away meets, Lavallee wants his team to focus on the technical aspect of their routines, specifically their landings. 

“A lot of the stuff [to improve] right now is form and execute on landing,” he explained. “Extra steps, our shapes while we’re in the air to help us finish bigger and stronger — those kinds of little technical things [are we what want to improve]. By and large, we’re really in good position right now, but finishing those small details — I tell them it’s like climbing a ladder — the higher you go up, the further the rungs get apart. So that half a ten takes as much as the three tenths before it, so it takes a lot of extra work to squeeze out that extra tenth. 

But above all, Lavallee lauded his team’s passion and attention to detail this season. 

“Across the board we had a lot of great stuff tonight. The kids are really making a lot of changes in practice and bringing those changes to the competition — and that’s what we hope for.”

UC Davis’ next meet is an MPSF dual at the Air Force Academy in Colorado on Saturday, followed by trips to Idaho, Utah and Sacramento before returning home on March 13.

Written by: AJ Seymour — sports@theaggie.org


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