Cal men’s gymnastics started a new tradition this season of giving a green shirt to the best-performing teammate in each event. The last gymnast to receive the coveted article of clothing was senior Anton Vorona, as he and four other seniors competed in their final meet at Haas Pavilion on Saturday.
The color green, symbolic of rebirth and renewal, suggests the beginning of the Bears’ new chapter. On Saturday, No. 11 Cal came second to No. 7 Navy (410.500) at its Senior Day meet. Though the blue and gold fell short to Navy by 7.400, they reached the 400s for the second time this year, earning a season-high score of 403.100 with multiple personal and season bests.
Cal had a shaky start earlier in the meet. Despite starting hot with freshman Kyle Shuttle’s career high of 14.400 on floor, the Bears struggled on pommel horse, which has been one of their biggest weaknesses this season. Four out of six gymnasts who performed the event had a fall, and the team score of 63.250 led to a big setback from their lead over Navy after the floor event.
“Pommel horse has been something that we’ve been trying to work on at the gym,” said senior Jonathan Wang. “But we were a little bit nervous, so we need to work on our confidence.”
On the other side of the mat, Navy’s Eastern College Athletic Conference, or ECAC, pommel horse champion David Toussaint put on an excellent performance in his signature event, scoring a 13.700. Josh Williams, ECAC champion on vault, made only one small mistake on his landing, hitting 14.150 on vault.
Despite the Bears’ failures and Navy’s successes, Cal kept focus with a strong team mentality. Led by captain Kyte Crigger, the team huddled up and reset after every event, making it possible for it to start fresh after its struggles on pommel horse.
With a new mindset, Cal came back strong in its last three events.
Darren Wong scored a season-high 13.850 on rings, and Vorona poured on a 13.750 of his own, his fist pump exciting the Bears squad and ending the downward trend. The blue and gold were able to maintain a high standard for their signature event vault as well, scoring three marks of 14.000 or higher out of five.
Tying the bow on the Bears’ final performance in Berkeley, Cal was able to hit a season high of 67.700 on high bar, improving its score from the Stanford International Collegiate Open by 6.
“I liked the way our team finished our last event,” said coach J.T. Okada. “Despite some mistakes throughout the meet, we were able to let that not get to us and finish strong on the final apparatus that has been giving us a bit of trouble in the past.”
Crigger was among the seniors who put on brilliant performances at this Senior Day meet, supporting his teammates while hitting his routines with consistency. Performing on five out of six events at the meet, he seized season-high scores on his last rings (13.200) and high bar (13.75) routines at Cal.
“We had some ups and downs today. It wasn’t perfect, but we kept our mindset strong throughout the whole meet,” Crigger said. “We pulled up with a good score to end it off, so I’m really happy with these guys.”
In the final send-off ceremony, the five seniors walked the vault run in Haas Pavilion together one last time.
At the end of the runway, Okada was waiting with flowers and gifts in his hand.
“I just want to tell how proud I am to these guys,” he said. “I’ve seen how they manage their time and persevere both gymnastic seasons and academic seasons, and I cannot wait to see them come back years from now and tell me how well they’re doing in life and career.”
Handing down that green shirt to the underclassmen, the seniors set forth on their next chapters and new runways.
Eriko Yamakuma covers men’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected].