After a long break from competition, Cal men’s gymnastics is ready to get back to business with its second tri-meet of the season Saturday. Coming off of a two-week break, the athletes have been utilizing their ample practice time to hone in on their technique and perfect their typical mistakes.
The Bears are hoping that their dedication in practice shines through during the meet, where they’ll face intimidating opponents in No. 2 Stanford and No. 6 Illinois.
However, the team is looking at the match as more of an opportunity for individual growth than an intercollegiate battle — a mindset that could help them focus and climb the national rankings.
“We like to keep a sort of bubble with our team — if any one of our guys are going up, all of our attention (is) on them,” said junior Noah Newfeld, back with the team after his recent solo performance in the Winter Cup. “We’ll try to bring as much cheering and support as we can for them, and typically not focus on what other teams are doing.”
Newfeld will be representing Cal on the pommel horse and the rings. Despite the fact that he currently holds impressive bests in these events — a 13.400 on pommel and a 14.150 on rings — he’s hoping to improve his scores by making adjustments to his routine mindset. Feeling that his nerves sometimes force him to hold back and just muscle through them, he hopes to let loose in order to swing more confidently and stretch more openly — a change that would improve his overall scores.
Other members of the team are also looking to update their personal bests. Although senior Noah Sano feels he has been hitting his routines pretty consistently the last few meets, he finds there is still plenty of room for improvement.
“I’ve been having some fumbles here and there with my routines,” Sano said. “So I’m aiming to perfect those routines and minimize those deductions as much as possible.”
And with Sano showing up for Cal in every single event except the high bar this meet, his biggest focus is using his consistency to start pushing those numbers higher.
This mindset is also shared by the whole team, as the Bears have been working on specific technique assignments given to them throughout the last two weeks of practice. If the Bears focus on what they’ve learned from these practice assignments, Sano said, they could match up with Stanford and Illinois well.
Due to various injuries throughout the team, the typical lineup will be switched around with some fresh faces. Rather than seeing this as a setback, head coach J.T. Okada sees it as an opportunity.
“I think it’ll be a great opportunity for new people to show up and do really well,” Okada said. “Our last meet had the worst hit ratio of the year — so it’s all up from here, we need to do better.”
Some of the newest Bears breaking in on the lineup will be twin brothers and sophomores Tyler and Sean Shimizu, both of whom are excited for their opportunity to shine. Having recently reentered the season after recovering from an arm injury, Tyler has been working hard to get back in shape by upping his workouts and upgrading his routines, particularly after the last meet with Stanford.
“I feel like I’ve been making really good progress these last couple weeks, so I’m very excited to get back out there and compete, and hopefully show it at the meet,” Tyler said.
If practice truly does make perfect, then Cal couldn’t ask for a more prepared team than these Bears. They’ve put in the work — now they just have to execute.