No. 9 Cal men’s gymnastics to face Stanford, Washington

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Every turn, every landing, every fall — every single nuance counts during competitions and meets, and during the No. 9 Cal men’s gymnastics team practice. The Bears never stop competing, even if it’s just during practice, in order to ensure the best possible performance at their meets and competitions. Cal isn’t just competing against Stanford and Washington at this Saturday’s Stanford Open at Burnham Pavilion — each member on the team must compete against each other to earn a coveted spot in the lineup.

Cal head coach Brett McClure elaborated on this sense of competition among the Bears during practice.

“In order to elevate everybody’s performance, they have to go against each other on a daily basis, and they’re constantly being evaluated on every single turn that they take,” McClure said. “Some guys that were maybe not in the lineup this week are going to be hungry and want to go out there and compete with their teammates and are really going to push it.”

The Cardinal, one of the Bears’ competitors at the Open, is a strong force, ranked second and having placed second nationally the past two seasons. Moreover, the Cardinal beat the Bears in first meet of the season Jan. 15.

Stanford senior Akash Modi, who was an alternate for the U.S. team at the 2016 Rio Olympics, is a force to be reckoned with — his strong suits include the pommel horse, parallel bar and all-around. The Bears, however, have solid competitors in each of the three events as well, with sophomore Aaron Mah, junior Yordan Aleksandrov and seniors Adam Young and Michael Diliberto.

Much of Cal’s team is young, with 10 of its 18 athletes being freshmen and sophomores. Despite the relatively young team, McClure is optimistic about the younger athletes having the opportunity to compete.

“This is a brand new team,” McClure said. “So it’s about getting out there, getting that competitive experience to start gaining confidence in each other and themselves as a team. I can see them getting better and better with each competition.”

Washington’s gymnastics team is also very young, with 10 of its 15 gymnasts being underclassmen. The Huskies, however, are ranked No. 19 in the nation. Despite their competitor’s ranking, the Bears will have to consciously work on improving their performance based on their last meet. Cal will be grinding away this week at practice, especially focusing on the easier fixes, as McClure describes.

“The first order of business is making sure that we minimize (our) falls … and then from there, we work on our execution,” McClure said. “As you get more confidence, and you start focusing more on the performance rather than a competition, then you can really start to see the execution standards elevate”

The Cal men’s gymnastics team is ready to redeem itself at the upcoming Stanford Open less than a week after its tough matchup against Stanford. Focus on performance and minute details can help the Bears succeed, especially against two teams they have seen competitively in previous years.

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