Ishino wins title, Cal finishes fourth at NCAAs

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Glen Ishino won a national championship in his final act as a member of the Cal men’s gymnastics team. It just was not the one that everyone was hoping for.

The senior struggled in the team competition, but found his footing when it meant the most, winning pommel horse both individually and in the team finals, while placing a disappointing  33rd on parallel bars in the team event. The Bears wrapped up the NCAA team competition on Friday in Norman, Okla. with a fourth-place overall finish.

The Bears fell to Illinois, Oklahoma, and Penn State in the finals but beat Stanford and Michigan. The Bears were content with their finish, but Cal coach Tim McNeill knew that his team was capable of more.

“Placing fourth was good but I certainly think we could have placed higher,” McNeill said.

The Bears struggled with some mistakes before stumbling on parallel bars, the last event of the competition. Ishino and junior Donothan Bailey had their worst performances of the competition on the parallel bars.

The team did its best to move on from those mistakes and perform at a high level on Saturday for the individual finals.

Ishino put forth his best pommel horse routine of the season and won first place in the event. Despite being one of the best Americans on the pommel horse, this was Ishino’s first national title.

“Glen dominated the pommel horse,” McNeill said. “He didn’t add any extra skills or do anything better than he does every single day in practice, and he still won the event by a large margin. Anyone who watched the meet could tell he was the best gymnast on pommel horse.”

Ishino also finished second on high bar with a score of 15.050. Ishino’s second-place finish was enough to win him All-American honors for both pommel horse and high bar.

Ishino wasn’t the only Bear to garner All-American honors. Steven Lacombe was named an All-American for still rings and vault, while Dennis Mannhart received All-American recognition for parallel bars and high bar.

Lacombe’s performance was a highlight of the meet for McNeill, especially on the vault.

“Steve did  incredible on all three days,” McNeill said.  “He did three perfect vaults. Fifth place is an incredible accomplishment.”

Lacombe made just one mistake in the meet when he struggled to hold a strength element on still rings on the final day of competition. McNeill admitted that his routine involved so much precision that it would have been nearly impossible to perform it well three days in a row.

Among other competitors in the individual finals, freshman Jonathan Liu was a pleasant surprise for the Bears. After generating little attention throughout the year he qualified in his first year with the Bears. Nonetheless, he was the only Cal gymnast to make a large mistake on Saturday.

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