Hard work, consistency and dedication always pay off eventually. Given the NCAA rankings and team performances, it was expected for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship placings to follow the current NCAA rankings. Yet, even though the No. 11 Cal men’s gymnastics team was hosting three top-10 teams Saturday in its first post-season meet, the Bears ended the day with a third-place finish. Beating out No. 10 Air Force, Cal placed behind No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 Stanford.
Saturday was indeed a challenging night — especially considering that the Bears hadn’t won a single home meet during the regular season. Despite their season setbacks, the Bears persisted. This persistence, along with their little successes throughout their last few meets, is what paid off during the championship.
Cal ended the championship with its highest team score of the season, tallying a score of 410.100. The Bears started the meet off on the vault, one of the team’s stronger events of the season. And sure enough, their consistency paid off, with the Bears beating the Falcons for third place in the event. Redshirt junior Michael Rauchwerger had strong performances for the team, scoring the highest vault score for the Bears with a 10th-place finish overall.
Later on in the evening, Rauchwerger earned the second-highest score for the Bears on the floor event, behind sophomore Aaron Mah, and placed 14th. Besides Mah and one lone Falcon, the top 13 spots for the floor event consisted of only Sooners and the Cardinal, foreshadowing the turnout of the final results of championship. Rauchwerger went on to tie for ninth overall on the pommel horse with a 13.500, yet again the highest score out of all the Bears on the event.
While junior Yordan Aleksandrov had a tough time on the pommel horse, finishing in 20th place overall, he shined on the rings, tying for seventh place overall. Aleksandrov continued to shine on the parallel bars, coming in fifth overall.
The Sooners finished in first place in every event except the pommel horse and all-around, proving that they truly are a force to be reckoned with after their undefeated season. Only a sophomore, Oklahoma’s Yul Moldauer, won three event titles: floor, rings and parallel bars.
Stanford senior powerhouse Akash Modi won the all-around event title, while Mah and Aleksandrov came in fifth and sixth place, respectively. Modi also won his fourth MPSF Gymnast of the Year award, making history as the only gymnast in MPSF history to win the award each and every year of his college career.
Even though the Bears were the only team to not win an event title, they chipped away throughout the night and came out ahead of the Falcons with a comfortable seven-plus point margin. Despite facing the likes of Modi and Moldauer, the Bears focused on their execution.
Not only did the Bears beat the higher-ranked Falcons, who had beat them for the first time in school history earlier in the season, but Cal also broke a score of 400.000 for the second time this year. The Bears hope to continue their upward trajectory as they prepare for the upcoming NCAA Championship.
Avanti Mehrotra covers men’s gymnastics. Follow her at [email protected]