No. 9 Cal Men’s Gymnastics team places second at Stanford Open

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The Bears were fighting an uphill battle Saturday night. Less than a week of grueling practices later, the Cal men’s gymnastics team was back at the grind again, facing No. 19 Washington and No. 2 Stanford at the Stanford Open. Competing in Stanford’s Burnham Pavilion, the Bears placed second, behind host Stanford and ahead of fellow travel team Washington.

The Bears scored a total of 398.850, while the Cardinal scored 423.600 and the Huskies 375.650.  While Cal outscored the Huskies, the team was not able to beat longtime rival Stanford for the second week in a row.

Cal junior Yordan Aleksandrov had a strong night Saturday, leading Cal’s scores on the high bar and floor and performing well in the all-around event. Although he finished fourth in the all-around competition behind three Cardinal gymnasts, he scored a 79.500 and beat two Huskies.

The floor exercise did not set a good tone for the Bears — their floor scoring totaled to 64.400 points, one-tenth of a point below the Huskies’ score and 8.100 points away from the Cardinal’s score. Aleksandrov was Cal’s top scorer on the floor, with a strong score of 13.350. Redshirt sophomore Nathaniel Ramil scored 13.050 on the floor, while the other four Cal gymnasts of the six-man lineup scored between a 12.5 and 13. While the Huskies performed slightly better than the Bears, the Cardinal outperformed both visitors with especially strong scores. Stanford senior and U.S. men’s team alternate for the Rio Olympics Akash Modi and junior Robert Neff had strong performances, scoring 15.000 and 14.700, respectively.

Similarly, the pommel horse proved to also be a challenge for the Cal team, as its running score was even lower than that of the floor exercise.  Sophomore Aaron Mah had Cal’s highest score, 13.450.

The Bears, however, had a breath of fresh air on the rings, where their running score totaled to 68.800, with freshman Anton Vorona and senior Michael Diliberto scoring 13.900 each.  Each of the six Cal gymnasts showed great improvement on the rings, with Vorona, Diliberto, Aleksandrov and junior Gagik Gharibyan all exceeded their scores from the team’s first meet against Stanford.

The Bears’ performances on the vault, bars and all-around events were significantly better than the pommel horse and vault events. Gharibyan had Cal’s highest score on the vault, with a 14.250, and Ramil also breaking the 14 barrier, earning a 14.150. On the parallel bars, Mah had the team’s highest score with 13.650, while on the high bars, Aleksandrov scored the highest with a 13.800.

The Bears have five days to ameliorate their performance before traveling to Los Angeles to compete in the SC United Open against No. 14 Arizona State, No. 18 Temple and No. 20 SC United. Debuting the season with two fine performances, the uphill battle looks like it can even out for the Bears.

Avanti Mehrotra covers men’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected]