Showtime! Cal’s Mya Lauzon balances the bear bubble, academics and being one day better

Showtime! Cal’s Mya Lauzon balances the bear bubble, academics and being one day better

By Christy Sandmaier

If junior Mya Lauzon and the Cal Bears aren’t on your NCAA radar yet, they should be. Set to take the floor Saturday in Vegas following a record-breaking season in 2023, Cal is embracing 2024 in celebratory fashion by kicking their season off at the Mean Girls Super 16. The competition is the biggest regular season event in collegiate gymnastics history featuring 16 NCAA teams and over 300 student-athletes. Last year, the Bears won their session with the second-highest team score out of all 16 teams in attendance recording a 197.475. 

Building momentum all season in 2023, there was just something special about this Cal team which kept us captivated. In March, they captured their first NCAA Regional win in Pittsburgh, posting the top final-round score of 198.075 in grand fashion. It was the highest road and postseason score in the program’s history, and the third highest overall. The Bears were also one of just three teams to place first in both the Semi Final and final round of its Regional. Two uncharacteristic falls off bars during NCAA Semi Finals in Fort Worth ultimately ended their run for the  Championship last year, but it’s only driven this team to dream further of the possibilities and work towards what’s possible again in 2024.

Marking their 50th season this year, Lauzon says Cal is ready to surprise once again and is using lessons from last year and their new-found determination to fortify their goals throughout this year’s campaign. It’s a new year and a clean slate and Lauzon is not only ready to put on a show with her team, but level up. It’s all part of the Cal motto to get “one day better.” 

Named to the PAC-12’s preseason watch list, Lauzon, who is known for her stunning lines, picture perfect technique and artistry, is one of those athletes your eyes simply gravitate towards the moment she salutes. Her artistry and presence is something Cal is focused on (just watch their beam and floor!) along with beautiful, consistent gymnastics. She’s aware of just how competitive the NCAA field is and the ever-growing fan base following their journey, but remains true to the “bear bubble” and being together with her team and their own goals.

“Whether we’re at competition or we’re at practice, we like to stick to our bear bubble,” she said. “We try not to dive too deep into stuff that we see on social media and stuff from the outside world when it has to do with other teams. We really just like to rely and focus on ourselves so we can work on the things that we need to work on, because as a team, we want to go out there and put our best foot forward, and that only has to do with what we’re doing inside of the gym and at practice.

“After every competition, we’re going to reflect and look at the things that we can improve every single day. I’m sure you’ve heard the motto we like to go by is “one day better” and so we really like to utilize that quote “one day better” and go into every competition and every single practice knowing we can improve and just get better every single day. Just like last season, we want to go out there and put out a show for everyone and really come out on top. So I think we’re going to shock everyone this season, too, and really just do our thing and have fun.”

Led by co-head coaches Justin Howell and Liz Crandall-Howell, Cal enters this season ranked no.7 and picked to finish 3rd in the PAC-12 in the Preseason Coaches Poll. This will be Cal’s final season in the PAC-12 before joining the ACC in 2025.

Just before Christmas, we spoke with Mya about the focus behind her gymnastics, the amazing camaraderie on her team – “having a smaller team, our team is filled with so much love and so much diversity, and we’re all determined and we have such a big drive for gymnastics” – and the ultimate balancing act known as her schedule. See below for the interview!

How to Watch This Weekend:

  • Super 16 Session 4 | 9 p.m. ET | YouTube
    • Alabama, Auburn, California and UCLA

For the exclusive announcement on the Mean Girls Super 16, Click Here!

To get the latest on the Mean Girls Super 16 Gymnastics Championships go to or @super16gym on Instagram.

For our 2024 Women’s NCAA Schedule, Click Here!

Cal is coming off a record-breaking season in 2023! Just a phenomenal year winning Regionals, making it back to NCAAs… Can you put it all in perspective and tell us how much it meant to the team and to you?

Last season I think we shocked everyone. It was such an amazing thing for us. We started the season off on a great note at Super 16, and I feel like usually we kind of build our way up there, but we just started off on such a great note for the team. Throughout the season, we were just building and building, achieving so many accolades and breaking so many records along the way. It was such a rewarding thing because I feel like our team is almost kind of, like, on the back burner a little bit, but we are such a talented group and the amount of diversity and talent and depth that we have on our team is just so amazing. Being able to showcase that throughout the season and then up until Regionals and that feeling of winning Regionals, I mean, that has never happened in program history! To really come out on top really just demonstrates how hard we work in the gym and how hard we really apply ourselves inside and outside of practice.

So you really felt the day to day practice and preseason work really paid off in a big way…

Being able to translate our practice and go out and have an amazing season and come out on top, especially for Regionals, was just so rewarding for us. We were so excited and we almost shocked ourselves because sometimes – and we talked to Liz about this a lot – I feel like sometimes a lot of us on the team tend to lowball ourselves, and I think we feel a little bit more intimidated when we’re going against bigger teams. To put it in perspective, we’re really talented, and we have so much to bring to the table, too, that I think we forget that we also are such an amazing team. We just had such a great season and then once we started breaking into postseason, really putting up those scores and just really coming out on top, it was just such an amazing thing for us. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for the world because that was just something so awesome to be a part of and to experience.

Honestly, all of last season was just such an amazing feeling for our entire program.

I know that NCAAs maybe didn’t go quite the way you all had hoped. Going forward in 2024, is getting that close proving to be a little bit of an extra incentive now?

Definitely for me personally, because when I got here freshman year, we didn’t even make it to Nationals. And so last season was actually my first time being on the team, going to Nationals, and Cal as a whole has only been to Nationals a handful of times. Being a part of that experience and being able to travel to NCAAs and compete there, even though we didn’t make the final four, day one was just such an awesome opportunity. We’ve reflected and talked about all of this and I felt like what had happened at Nationals last year was very shocking, honestly, because bars, especially for Cal, are definitely one of our stronger anchor events for us. It was really just an uncharacteristic thing that had happened. 

Moving forward, we’re definitely going to be looking for those little details to really focus on and working in practice. Repetition is really important and we’re just working on focusing on those little details so we can translate those into the coming season.

I can see the enthusiasm that you’ve got right now! How have the incoming freshmen adapted so far?

It’s always going to be hard to have incoming freshmen and just getting used to that transition. I know when I came to college, that transition was really difficult for me not only academically, but athletically and how we train inside of the gym compared to club. But, yes, Annalise (Newman-Achee) and Kyen (Mayhew) are just so amazing! Being able to come in with such a great team and especially introducing these incoming freshmen, I can’t wait to start the season and really allow them to shine because they’re both so talented.

I’m really excited for them to really get introduced to college gymnastics and over the next four years, they’re really just going to shine out there and really put on a show for everyone, just like the rest of our team. Having the new freshmen come in we get to introduce a lot more diversity and new personalities, and it really just adds to our team. 

Just like last year, I really think Cal is primed to surprise a lot of people, and I think the field, even coming into this season, is more wide open than ever. How much do you all pay attention to what’s going on around the country with the other schools, whether it’s scoring, judging, skills or routines?

We really just like to rely and focus on ourselves just so we can work on the things that we need to work on, because as a team, we want to go out there and put our best foot forward, and that only has to do with what we’re doing inside of the gym and at practice. We try really hard at competitions to stay in our little bear bubble, stick together and dial in just so we don’t get too distracted with either the scores or the other teams. We want to go to a competition and stay engaged with one another and be a cohesive team until the meet is finished, because the most important thing is having fun with each other and really just uplifting one another on each event until we finish the entire meet. 

So speaking of, I’m curious then, especially at Regionals last year, did you all know that you were heading for the record? Not only were you going to win in Pittsburgh and top Florida, but set this scoring record…

So that’s actually something that we didn’t know. It was kind of just all a surprise. That’s the thing in competition, we’re not really focusing so much on the scores. So we weren’t super focused on the score at the time. As soon as eMjae (Frazier) finished her last floor routine and we’re looking at the scores, we’re like, ‘There’s no way we just did that!’ We were like, ‘We just won Regionals!’ We’ve never done that as a program before. So that was such a rewarding feeling. Later on, we were having our team meeting with our coaches, and Justin told us we had the highest score for Regionals throughout the entire NCAA, we were just so in shock. Not only do we, I feel like, tend to shock fans but the overall gymnastics fan base.

One of the things that really caught my eye last season in particular about your team is the artistry, obviously on floor, but on beam as well – one of the best beam lineups in the country in my opinion… Tell me about the beam workout, the assignments, and what the focus is, because to all of us it looks like you’re way beyond fulfilling your requirements – you’re doing the difficulty, but it’s beautiful. It’s a complete performance every time.

We go into practice and whether or not that’s doing either routines or haves or skills, Liz also has us do some dance throughs and we’ll have to focus on making eye contact, being big with our arms, because gymnastics is not only about doing flips and skills, but it comes with a lot of artistry and presentation. I think that’s something that we excel on, especially when it comes to beam and floor. We do a lot of stuff where we focus on dance as well as focusing on our skills. We get to go up and show off our personality and our dance and really show enthusiasm in our skills, the way we salute, and just showing off our overall artistry. 

We do a lot of group assignments, which has been really fun and also really challenging. It kind of gives you the perspective of, ‘okay, I’m not only doing this for myself, but I’m doing it for my team.’ Because when we go out in competition, it’s the same thing. We’re all going out there and performing as a team. Our team scores matter, and as much as an individual. We’re doing it for our program and for our team.

When you were looking for a school, what were you looking for, and what was it about Cal that you really felt like, this is the place that I would love to be?

I was definitely looking for a place that was going to benefit both my athletics and my academics. My parents always emphasized gymnastics is one thing, and that’s obviously going to be your sort of gateway into college. But you have to realize that academics and that your future that comes after you graduate from a university is going to be super important. That emphasis in my head that I’ve had for a really long time is what led me to coming to Cal. Previously, I wasn’t even committed to Cal. I was actually committed to the University of Minnesota. And then I ended up changing my commitment my junior year (of high school). It was actually kind of funny because I had never actually visited Cal in person before I came here because I committed to Cal during COVID. I did a Zoom call with Justin, Liz, and Janelle (McDonald), our assistant coach at the time.

The very first time I met Liz and Janelle was when they happened to come to a college, just camp or clinic in Washington a couple weeks before I left for Cal. I went to dinner with them and met them for the very first time. It was more like a gut feeling thing, making that decision. Choosing Cal and knowing that it was the number one public university and then knowing it had amazing athletics, those are just the two things that  drew me into coming here. And even though it was a gut feeling and I never got to experience the whole recruiting visit or official visit thing, I wouldn’t change my experience for the world because since being here, I’ve been excelling in my academics and my athletics, and it’s just been benefiting me in so many different ways.

So you feel Cal has really given back to you in so many ways…

I’ve made so many strong relationships with my teammates, my coaches, the athletic staff, just the overall student-athlete community, and it’s been really amazing. Those were the two things I was really looking for in addition to walking into a team with a lot of diversity. That was also really important to me because I’m from Washington. I wanted to know that there was going to be a lot of sharing of culture and diversity.

How do you then – and maybe take this question as even giving advice to student-athletes coming in – how do you balance your schedule with all the requirements as a student-athlete that you have to fulfill? 

I think the most challenging thing about being a student-athlete is learning to juggle such a difficult schedule. I feel like being a student-athlete, we’re just always on the go. We always have something to do, always have something to focus on. And so I feel like prioritizing everything can be difficult sometimes. Since being at Cal, we have a lot of resources outside of the gym that we also get to use for academics. We have access to tutors, we get to talk to academic advisors, our professors. Those utilities have definitely helped when it comes to balancing the academic side of being at Cal. I mean, California being the number one public university, the classes and the workload are definitely up there. But since I’ve been here, definitely being able to balance and finding a way to utilize my time to fit in all my priorities is definitely important. 

Mental health is also very important, and that’s something that our team and our student-athlete body at Cal focuses a lot on. Being able to manage and take time for yourselves, but also being on top of your work and just making sure you can prioritize all the things that you’re juggling on your plate, it’s definitely difficult, but it’s achievable.  

Being able to come here and be pushed to my limit has been, honestly, such a great thing. I’ve learned a lot from it. With the rest of my junior year and going into my senior year, there’s a lot more that I’m going to learn and I’m going to experience, and I’m really excited for that.

It’s so important to be able to see the bigger picture…

That was another thing that drew me to Cal. I didn’t want to go to a university where I was just going to settle and have it easy. I wanted to grow up, and when I came here, I knew that Cal was going to be challenging. I know it’s not an easy school academically and on top of athletics, I knew that was going to be super difficult, but I really wanted to go to a university that challenged because although I wanted to come to a university that benefited me both academically and athletically, I also wanted to go somewhere that really challenged me and pushed me almost out of my comfort zone. Sometimes when I’m in classes or I’m in the gym, there are times where you’re going to feel uncomfortable and you’re like, ‘okay, I don’t know if I can do this’ but that’s sort of a great thing that I’ve learned to utilize at Cal, is that not everything is going to be easy. It really pushes me to be an overall better student and a better athlete.

So when you do have a minute or two to relax, what do you like to do? 

When I have some downtime, I am a really big napper! So I love to take naps throughout the day. If I have, like, a couple of hours in between my classes after practice, I’m most likely going to take a shower and then take a nap. I’m also a really big reader. I was a big reader when I was in middle school, and then I kind of got away from it when I went to high school, but then coming to college I started to notice that I just didn’t want to use my cell phone as much, especially when I’m winding down and going to bed.

I actually started reading a lot more books. And so I read before I go to bed. You’ll also probably find me at a cafe or exploring new foods in the area because Berkeley being such a diverse area, we have so many food options. I mean, if you’re a foodie, Berkeley is the place for you. And I’m a very spontaneous person when it comes to trying new foods and trying new things. So most of the time when I have downtime, either I’ll try to find a new place to eat or I’ll sit down at a cafe. 

What does success look like at the end of the 2024 season for you and your team?

So success to us is going to be overall just having a great season, whether or not we make it to final fours. I mean, the ultimate goal is obviously to make final fours, and we’re striving high. We’re striving for the really big things because we know we’re capable. Ultimately, the end goal is to make it to Nationals again and really come back from last season where we left off and put on a show, show off our confidence and showcase how much talent we have on the team. 

With the PAC-12 ending, we’re going to have our last PAC-12 Championships. Obviously for that, we want to put our best foot forward and really step up our game and really end it off on a good note for the PAC-12. When we move into postseason, we just want to step out, put on a show for everyone and really translate all the hard work that we put into practice and put it into competition and just get one day better every single day in practice and competition, just so we can showcase how much of a driven team and how much talent we have.

Photos by Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics

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