All or nothing: Cal men’s gymnastics dominates at Cal Benefit Cup

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After a semester of team bonding and training, the Cal men’s gymnastics team warmed up for its first meet of the 2022 season at the Cal Benefit Cup against SoCal United, a group of collegiate athletes without gymnastics teams at their respective universities. 

The two-day meet gave junior gymnasts an opportunity to compete in a college environment. The season-opening meet was also a way for the team to raise funds, with 100% of donations going to the Bears. The blue and gold also gave their 100%, starting their season strongly with a marginal victory — 382.100-310.900 over SC United — and eight athletes beating their personal records that night. 

“We’ve been training as a team from the time that school started in August until now. Overall, we’re a lot more prepared (compared to last year),” said team captain and senior Caleb Rickard.

The Bears opened up their opening meet with the floor exercise, one of their more consistent events. Sophomore Noah Newfeld went first with a solid performance, scoring the second-highest overall score of 13.400 for the floor exercise. 

“I was first up for floor and for the entire meet and I was really happy with how I hit that routine and started us off,” Newfeld said.

Senior Kyle Abe started off his routine strongly but had some minor slip-ups in the end. Senior and team captain Yu-Chen Lee followed through with a 13.850, the highest score on the event, while SC United sophomore Eric Shebert was the highest scorer on his team with a score of 12.250. 

Moments to highlight include freshmen Tyler and Sean Shimizu’s collegiate debuts on the still rings and parallel bars respectively. Sophomore Collin Cunane delivered a high bar routine that left the crowd roaring, earning a personal — and competition — best score of 13.250.

The Bears’ best event of the night was the vault. Rickard topped off the event with a 14.500, while sophomores David Rauchwerger and Jelani Sweet achieved their personal best scores of 14.050 and 13.950, respectively. SC United chalked off its highest score of the night, 65.750, on vault as well, but it was still more than 4 points behind.

Cal had the most trouble with pommel horse, a trend that has built up in recent years. There were minor inconsistencies throughout, but sophomore Aidan Li led the event with a 13.700.

The blue and gold maintained a steady lead over SC United for all of the meet and for all-around scores as well. Newfeld, the only Cal gymnast who competed in all six events, ended the meet with a 75.700. His highest scoring event was vault, where he earned a 13.750. Lorenzo Tassinato from SC United came in second with a 66.700. 

Dominating the Cal Benefit Cup and claiming victory by more than 70 points, the Bears still have a lot to improve on if they want to beat out other top teams in the nation. They will want to focus on honing their skills on pommel horse and fixing the sporadic inconsistencies in other events as well.

“I’m really excited,” Rickard said. “We gained four freshmen this year, which really adds more depth to our team, so I’m excited to go out there and show people what we can do.”

Cal is a team with the potential to make a name for itself in collegiate gymnastics but often falls short of doing so. Fans can only hope that this time around, the blue and gold will be able to soar above and beyond their goals this coming season.

Yuqing Qiu covers men’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected].