No. 12 Cal men’s gymnastics to play underdog at NCAA Championships Qualifier

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Cal has always been well-known for its prowess in aquatic sports, but No. 12 Cal men’s gymnastics might have a hard time swimming up from the bottom of the qualifying pool at the NCAA 2018 National Collegiate Men’s Gymnastics Championships Qualifier.

The NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Committee announced Tuesday that Cal would be the 12th and final team to earn a chance to compete on the biggest stage of the year. This will be the Bears’ fifth consecutive trip to the qualifiers, but their first time in those five years entering the competition at the bottom.

In 2015, the team made it past the qualifying first day to eventually come in fifth in the nation.

The Bears entered the qualifiers ranked fourth in 2016 but failed to advance to the final session the next day — a failure they would repeat in 2017 when they entered the pool in ninth place.

Despite the Bears’ upward trend in scores this season, their downward trend in rank over the past few years does not look promising for this weekend’s competition.

Even if they set a season high and exceed 399.100, all but one other competitors in their pool qualified for the tournament with scores over 400.000.

Cal will be competing in the second session Friday against No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 4 Illinois, No. 5 Ohio State, No. 8 Penn State and No. 9 Iowa. No.11-seeded Air Force, despite coming in behind Cal during the MPSF Championship on April 7, still maintained a high enough ranking score overall to be pegged above Cal.

Even if the Bears and the Falcons were placed in the same qualifying pool, both teams would still have very little chance of moving on to the next round, as only the top three teams from each qualifying session get to advance.

Despite the realistic possibility of the team’s early exit, individual members still have a chance of earning personal success. In each session, the top three all-around competitors from unqualified teams will move on to the finals.

Last year, junior Aaron Mah, senior Yordan Aleksandrov and redshirt senior Michael Rauchwerger all used their respective strengths in the gym to move on to the finals without their entire team.

Floating at the top of the pool remains Oklahoma, the undefeated, three-time reigning champion of the NCAAs. With a qualifying score more than five points ahead of Minnesota, it looks like the Sooners and Bears will most likely end up on opposite ends of the scoreboard.

Alison White covers men’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected]

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Cal would be the 10th and final team to earn a chance to compete at the NCAA 2018 National Collegiate Men’s Gymnastics Championships Qualifier. In fact, Cal was the 12th and final team.