Idle Bears Return, Move Across Bay for Big Flip

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If the No. 4 Cal men's gymnastics team learned one thing in the past two competitions, it was this: before playing to win, practice to win.

The Bears (6-3) struggled to complete clean routines in their last two contests, prompting a change in practice before facing No. 1 Stanford (15-1) on Saturday.

Starting last Sunday, the team began keeping a cumulative tally of how many perfect routines they could complete in a row.

One mistake, and it was back at one.

"At the beginning of the week we weren't very good at this, and we kept having to start over," senior Tim McNeill said. "But Monday was better than Sunday, and then Tuesday was a lot better, so we're already improving."

The new twist has heightened the competitive mentality in practice.

"We're trying to do mock meet situations," McNeill said. "We've done practice meets on pommel horse, which makes us mentally prepare for when we will actually be on the competition floor."

After two weeks without a meet, the Bears may need the mock competition as the Cardinal are coming off of a decisive win against No. 6 Michigan last weekend.

Cal will be tested going up against the fourth-ranked vault team in the nation, especially as they are coming off a subpar vault performance at the Pacific Coast Classic.

"A bit of that was because we didn't have our full vault lineup without Evan (Roth) and Kyson (Bunthuwong)," McNeill said. "The vault isn't our strongest event, but I think we will definitely see an improvement."

The Bears will have the boost of a considerably healthy roster-a significant change from their injury-riddled start of the season.

"Injuries are much less of a problem than they were previously; we're definitely the best we have been all year," McNeill said. "That's encouraging because a lot of time people's bodies break down nearing the end of the season, so we just have to be really smart about letting everyone recover."

But Cal still has a tough test ahead of them, facing the top-ranked team on the high bar and pommel horse. The Bears come in a close second in both events and lead the nation on the parallel bars.

Stanford may also be hindered by the absence of key gymnasts Sho Nakamura and David Sender. The two are competing in Doha, Qatar, with the U.S. National Team and did not compete against the Wolverines last weekend. But that won't change the new perfection-seeking practices for Cal.

"It shouldn't really make any difference," McNeill said. "We always have the mentality that it doesn't matter who else is there. We have to focus on our own team and our individual routines. Regardless of who Stanford is or is not competing, it won't affect our preparation."

Although there won't be a running tally at the meet this weekend, McNeill isn't seeking perfection. He's wrapped up in one word-"consistency."


Contact Caroline Ogawa at [email protected]

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