Despite its high-flying tricks, it’s the ground the Cal men’s gymnastics team will be focusing on in hopes of sticking its landings at the Stanford Open on Saturday.
Three spots to compete in the 2022 Winter Cup, a qualifying event for this year’s U.S. Gymnastics Championships, are up for the taking at Burnham Pavilion. While head coach J.T. Okada is hopeful that last year’s CGA Rookie of the Year Noah Newfeld may have a shot at qualifying, it would be an unlikely win if the team were to do so. Not only will Cal compete against Stanford, the highest-ranked national collegiate team and reigning NCAA national champion, and No. 2 University of Oklahoma, but it will also face noncollegiate elite gymnasts as well.
“There will be a lot of good gymnastics there this weekend,” Okada said. “We haven’t seen Stanford yet so I definitely want to see how we stack up to the defending national champions.”
The reality of its situation as a collegiate program ranked ninth nationally isn’t lost on Cal. According to Okada, the Bears’ ultimate goal for the meet is to increase their team score.
Cal finished off 2021 with a team score of 392.055, but began this season with 382.100. The most recent team scores from Stanford and Oklahoma were 407.500 and 407.700, respectively.
Okada attributes Cal’s recent less-than-ideal performance a few weeks ago to a number of falls. He’s hoping for cleaner dismounts and stuck landings this time around, which would mean fewer point deductions.
Co-captain Miles (Yu-Chen) Lee said he and his teammates have been refining their routines over the past week and will be heading into the meet more confident about hitting them.
Lee also hopes to hit his five routines on equipment that is less familiar with audience members and other teams in attendance.
“The big thing I’ve been preaching these past few weeks is that we need to focus on us,” Okada said. “Just us doing better than we did last time, our routines.”
The Stanford Open consists of two sessions where the three collegiate teams, Team USA and senior elite gymnasts will compete.
In order to move onto the Winter Cup, Cal gymnasts would need a top-three all-around score among those who haven’t already pre-qualified. Those who have pre-qualified include eight Cardinal gymnasts and five from University of Oklahoma.
Stanford boasts a strong team that has only gained more talent. Cal’s way into the Winter Cup may lie in the fact that a number of gymnasts from Stanford’s 23-man squad have pre-qualified. This could leave an opening for Newfeld, who is performing on all six apparatus.
Another athlete to keep an eye out for is Cal’s Caleb Rickard. Rickard tied for fifth at the 2021 NCAA championships and holds the record for the blue and gold’s highest score on vault.
Five gymnasts from each team will perform on each apparatus, with a few additional athletes from each team competing in exhibition routines in order to obtain an all-around score. Newfeld and other athletes could secure a chance to compete in the championships this way as individual event competitors. While this would certainly be exciting, the team will primarily focus on competing against itself.
Cal is hoping to perform its personal best at Saturday’s meet and work on consistently hitting its routines in competition.
“I think the team will do well at the Stanford open,” Lee said in an email. “We are well prepared and we just need to be confident in ourselves and show it off.”