Bears Take a Tumble at MPSFs

Photo: <b>Sophomore Kyle Bunthuwong</b> finished in third place in the all-around with a score of 89.000.
Eddie Rosenbaum/Photo
Sophomore Kyle Bunthuwong finished in third place in the all-around with a score of 89.000.

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The Cal men's gymnastics team has been on a rise all year, losing only one meet and dominating the national standings. But the team had one more stop at Maples Pavilion on Saturday before the NCAA championships, and it was a big one.

That step proved to be a little too big, as the No. 3 Bears finished in third place-the same spot as last year-behind Stanford and Oklahoma at the MPSF championships at Stanford.

Cal has had a tendency all season to be affected as a team by the momentum of individual events. At Maples Pavilion, it led to the Bears' downfall.

"If you make a mistake, you can't let it affect the rest of your team," said senior Kyson Bunthuwong, who took sixth in the all-around. "If you get motivated and do well, then that's all good. But if you get down, you have to just brush it off and stay focused on the task at hand."

Cal did have its share of highlights, winning the parallel bars handily behind a sweep of second through fifth places. Kyson Bunthuwong finished second, followed by freshmen Glen Ishino and Daniel Geri, and first-year law student Kyle Brady.

But the Bears fell, figuratively and literally, from first place after the third rotation.

After a very strong fifth rotation on the floor exercise, the Bears pulled to within four points of the No. 1 Cardinal and one point of the No. 2 Sooners. Led by Kyle and Kyson Bunthuwong, who finished sixth and seventh, respectively, Cal took the third spot on the floor and in the overall standings, still within striking distance of the conference title.

But the pommel horse, usually one of the strongest events for the Bears (11-3), pushed their chance at the title decisively out of reach. Four out of the six gymnasts fell off the horse during their routines, and the team score was low enough to place them dead last for the event.

"I tried to block everything out and do what I had to do," said Kyle Bunthuwong, who stayed on the horse and finished sixth with a 14.550. "I tried to hit my routine, because if I hit, it's good for the team."

The younger Bunthuwong did hit his routine and placed third in the all-around, but it wasn't enough for the Bears to overcome champion Stanford (11-4) or second-place Oklahoma.

In four events and the all-around, the Cardinal and Sooners took both first and second place. All-around winner Sho Nakamori, who also won MPSF Gymnast of the Year, took four individual titles for Stanford, which also had Thom Glielmi win MPSF Coach of the Year.

Although Cal didn't capture the MPSF title, it is fired up about the loss, stressing that it's better to stumble this week than on the national stage.

"Our performance on pommel simply wasn't indicative of all the hard work and improvements we've made," junior Evan Roth said.

The Bears have one more chance to show off those improvements in two weeks at the NCAA championships, held this year at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis.


Contact Evan Aczon at [email protected]

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