Cal to compete with nation’s top male gymnasts for national title

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This weekend in Illinois at the NCAA championships, the nation’s top 12 teams and highest-scoring individual gymnasts will compete for the chance to call themselves the best in the country.

Oklahoma, the No. 1 team for the meet and in the country, has not only dominated on the competition floor this season but has also been the team to beat for the past four years. If any team upsets the Sooners this year, it will be the Cardinal, who are seeded No. 2 with a qualifying score of 418.025, slightly more than 3 points below the top score.

If Oklahoma wins its fifth consecutive title this year, it will hold the record for most NCAA championship titles with 13; the Sooners are currently tied with Penn State with 12.

Other teams participating in the championships include No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Illinois and No. 5 Penn State; on the lower end of the rankings are No. 11 Cal and No. 12 Army.

There will also be individual competitions for gymnasts whose teams did not qualify but who had high enough scores to qualify for a number of events or all-around competition.

There will be two preliminary rounds of competition from which the top three teams from each will move on to the finals competition, along with the top three all-arounders who are not on advancing teams. The top three individual event competitors who did not qualify for all-around and are also competing without their respective schools present will also get their tickets punched to the finals.

This year marks the sixth consecutive year that Cal has advanced to the NCAA championships qualifier, and the team is hoping to advance to the finals for the first time since 2015. Last year at the championships, the Bears finished last in their session and consequently did not advance to the finals as a team, but individuals such as current junior Kyte Crigger and six other Bears, some of whom will be returning, qualified for event finals.

The last time the Bears won a national title was in 1998, their fourth title in school history. Two decades later, Cal may not be at the top of the gymnastics field, but the growing program remains competitive thanks to its young talent and experienced veterans alike.

Routines to be on the lookout for are those from freshman Darren Wong, who is in the running for the title of 2019 College Gymnastics Association Rookie of the Year, and senior Aaron Mah, who will be hoping to end his college career on a high note. Off of the apparatus, the Bears have also been putting in the work in the classroom — at their regional championships, seven athletes were recognized for their academic success and named to the MPSF All-Academic list.

The championships will begin Friday and conclude the next day.

Sloane Pace covers gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected].