Despite capitalizing on a head start with its best team score on floor this season, No. 10 Cal earned a narrow win against No. 11 William & Mary last Wednesday with a team score of 382.950. After a longer break, the Bears will set off for their first “in-person meet” of the season against Stanford at Burnham Pavilion on Sunday, March 7.
During last Wednesday’s meet, the Bears were forced to exclude some gymnasts from competing due to COVID-19 developments within the program.
This unsettling news was somewhat offset before the meet, as two gymnasts from the team — freshman Noah Newfeld and sophomore Will Lavanakul — were picked as College Gymnastics Association, or CGA, honorees. Newfeld was named CGA rookie of the week and Lavanakul was named CGA specialist of the week.
“I feel honored to earn rookie of the week and it was so cool to be awarded it after watching old teammates and college idols earn it as well,” Newfeld said. “It is also very motivating for the future to work harder and earn more awards.”
Cal had a head start on floor, a point of improvement from past meets. Four out of six gymnasts in the lineup earned scores in the 13s, which contributed to the team score of 66.400, the team’s season-best score on floor this year.
The two-point gap the Bears earned in the first event, though, was not to be sustained over the meet. Vault, in which Cal usually garners high scores, was surprisingly not its strongest this time around. After multiple falls, its total team score ended up at 66.950, three points lower than the Bears’ season-best score of 69.200 in the meet against Stanford.
On the other side of the mat, the Tribe had excellent routines on vault. Not only did the entire lineup garner scores of 13 or above (including two in the 14s), but it also notched a team score of 69.700, which tied its highest score of the season. With that score, the Tribe narrowed the gap between it and the Cal to only .150 points.
What enabled the Bears to pull through the neck-and-neck situation were key performances in later events. Junior Yu-Chen Lee earned the victory on parallel bars with 13.550. On horizontal bar, junior and team captain Caleb Rickard notched 13.100 and topped the event.
Junior Kyle Abe won the all-around category with his career-high of 13.750 on floor, and two season-highs from rings and high bars.
After more than a week-long rest, Cal will square off with a familiar opponent: Stanford. Their second meeting this season will be in person at the Cardinal’s Burnham Pavilion. Though Stanford’s roster is also fragmented due to the opt-outs of strong gymnasts on the team, freshman Brandon Nguyen and sophomore Riley Loos, who earned multiple wins in events from the last meet against the Bears, are still on the team and competing.
“We are using this extra to make smart additions and precise improvements to our routines,” said head coach JT Okada in an email. “This will be our first in-person meet this year and our first 5 up 5 count meet this year. I want our preparations for these season firsts to be reflected in the meet.”
Transitioning into an in-person and five-up, five-count format, might prove to be a challenge. Whether or not the blue and gold can adapt and show improvement from their last meet will be key in their second-time match with the Cardinal.
Eriko Yamakuma covers men’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected].