Cal flies north to face old, new rivals for Pac-12 Invitational

Photo of Cal men's gymnastics
Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff

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A combination of power, aerodynamics and elegance, gymnastics isn’t easy to watch or learn. It takes perseverance and courage to master –– bodies flipping so gracefully through the air can easily succumb to the pull of gravity and come crashing down to the mats in the blink of an eye.

After persevering through the multiple obstacles thrown relentlessly in its way, the Cal men’s gymnastics team is close to breaking the 400-point mark for the first time since 2019. With the lineup of teams for the Pac-12 Invitational already set, the Bears will be facing some solid competition in No. 1 Stanford, No. 13 Arizona State and No. 14 Washington on Friday, Feb. 4.

As the reigning NCAA champion, Stanford showed a stellar performance at the Stanford Open last week, scoring 410.250. The Cardinal is currently ranked top three for all six events and will be aiming to stay at the top. Arizona State and Washington aren’t in the NCAA but are instead part of Gymnastics Association of College Teams, or GymACT, an organization dedicated to helping grow college gymnastics programs in the United States. While ASU has competed in two meets this season, Washington has only seen action in one, in which it totaled a score of 364.900.

The Pac-12 Invite in Seattle will be the first time the blue and gold compete against three other college programs simultaneously this season. External factors may affect their performance at the meet, including competing in a new facility, an unfamiliar crowd and foreign equipment. However, such factors won’t turn into obstacles for the Bears if they continue to focus on themselves and execute their routines as close to perfection as possible.

“We’re going to try to start off strong and reduce the number of falls,” said senior Kyle Abe.

Cal had multiple hiccups in its first event at both the Cal Benefit Cup and Stanford Open; but if the Bears can hold their ground and keep their falls to a minimum in Seattle, they could very well see a leap in their scores.

Abe will be representing Cal on the floor, vault and still rings and hopes to reach his target scores for all the routines. Other gymnasts to watch include seniors and team captains Yu-Chen Lee and Caleb Rickard. Rickard is currently ranked seventh in the NCAA in vault with the average score of 14.525, while Lee is ranked seventh for floor with an average of 13.875. Both of their performances will be essential in boosting the Bears’ overall team score.

Sophomore Noah Newfeld is ninth in the NCAA for all-around with an average of 77.875. After qualifying for the 2022 Winter Cup, his routines will be highly anticipated as well.

“We’re just focusing on refining our routines this week and making sure that we will be able to hit them the best we can,” Abe said.

The blue and gold recently moved up in the rankings from ninth to eighth but hope to finish their season in the top six. As an NCAA Division I team funded mostly by fundraising and alumni donations, even a tiny step forward is considered a milestone for the coaches and athletes alike.

The 2022 season is just getting started, and the Bears have come a long way since the start of 2021. Although there is still much room for improvement, they are proud of themselves for what they’ve managed to accomplish so far.

With the Pac-12 Invite just around the corner and many more fierce competitors ahead, Cal fans hope that the only direction the Bears will continue to go is up.

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