The No. 9 Cal men’s gymnastics team has faced many top opponents this season and performed pretty well. But what the Bears have yet been unable to do is place first in any of the competitions they have been in this year.
That happened again Saturday, as Cal finished in second at the Air Force triangular meet in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with a final team score of 434.050, to No. 5 Illinois, 442.300. The host of the meet, No. 10 Air Force, finished in third place less than one point behind the Bears, 433.450.
“I think this was a great step for us in a really positive direction,” said Cal head coach Brett McClure. “We are starting to get some guys healthy again and put back into the lineup. … In the future, they are only going to start to get healthier and get them back in more events, which is only going to make this lineup stronger. It was nice to see the guys who have stepped into their roles improve, as well, to enable us to put up our season-high even though we are not at our full strength yet.”
Cal’s total was a season-best for the squad on a day when senior co-captain Kevin Wolting returned to his position in the all-around part of the competition after resting last week from his participating in the Winter Cup Challenge, compiling a season high 87.850, which left him in last place in the all-around competition.
Wolting scored a meet-high 15.550 on floor, leading the Bears to a team score of 73.850 on the event, the highest of the three schools. The rest of the team followed suit, with each gymnast scoring at least a 14.300 or higher.
Even more records were set on the pommel horse where Cal scored its season best team score of 71.450. On this event, senior Takahiro Kawada scored a 15.300, only a half tenth of a point below his career-best. Senior co-captain Kyle Zemeir also had a good day on the event with a 14.500, only a half tenth short of his own career-high. Senior Kevin Tran, one of the injured gymnasts returning, also performed well on this event, scoring a 14.050, as he returns from injury.
The Bears also set a season-high team score on still rings, 72.650, as all five participants scored at least a 14.350.
With all of the team’s scores falling within 14.050 to 14.850 on the vault and parallel bars, the team did not spark the same level of scoring on these two events. Finishing with team totals of 72.850 and 71.950, respectively, the final scores on these areas were not enough, even with senior Kevin Ko returning to the lineup with a 14.600, to get past Illinois, which scored a 74.100 on vault.
Cal was able to eke out one score above 15.000 on high bar with sophomore Yordan Aleksandrov scoring a 15.050, his season high, despite two Bears’ gymnasts, freshman Aaron Mah and sophomore Gagik Gharibyan scoring below 14.000.
The Bears will get the chance to return home this weekend to compete in two different meets.
“We improved quite a bit, and we are still looking to improve (hitting routines),” McClure said. “We missed five routines this weekend and we are looking to make that two or three come next weekend and then one or none heading into the postseason.”