Cal Looks to Peak Sooner Than Later

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While most students are celebrating the week's end during the horrid midterm season, the Cal men's gymnastic team had to jump on a plane and stay focused under the pressure for Saturday's dual meet at top-ranked Oklahoma.

After a dismal team performance at the Stanford Open two weeks ago - No. 5 Cal (2-3) placed third out of the three collegiate teams, including the first-place Sooners (8-0) - the Bears are eager to bounce back and pull out an upset.

Under normal circumstances, a week off from competition might disturb a team's flow and consistency, but for Cal, this may actually prove beneficial, giving it the ability to recover and experiment with different things.

"There have been a lot more routines and a lot more refinement in training these past couple weeks," sophomore Donothan Bailey said. "We're excited to show off all our hard work."

With the NCAA Team Championships right around the corner next month, the Bears will have to peak quickly or their final season might be in jeopardy. Cal will be swung out of its comfort zone at the Howard McCasland Field House in Norman, Okla., following a long flight and a two hour time change.

The Bears have had their fair share of injuries so far, but it was redshirt sophomore Daniel Culpepper who was Cal's highest scorer in the floor event at the Stanford Open. Redshirt senior Bryan del Castillo was unable to participate in the meet, but his performances on floor last season earned him All-America honors.

"Daniel (Culpepper) will be ready, as will Bryan (del Castillo) and Dennis (Mannhart), but they can only do some events," junior Glen Ishino said.

Perhaps the biggest setback, though, is Ishino's absence. The reigning MPSF Gymnast of the Year is struggling with an ongoing injury and won't be traveling on the plane with the team.

The Sooners are currently undefeated, adding victories over Cal and Stanford to their record two weeks ago. The team will have to rally together and pull out an almost spotless routine or hope that Oklahoma falters.

Nonetheless, the squad will be bolstered by Bailey's recent performances. The Lake Forest, Calif., native continues to stun avid fans and casual observers alike as he garnered his second weekly honor on February 22 - this time as the Cal Muscle Milk Student-Athlete of the Week.

His showing at the Stanford Open was perhaps the solitary bright light for Cal, as he took home another all-around title.

"It feels pretty good," Bailey said. "I'm improving a lot, which is always good as long as I am doing what I can to help our team."

If all goes according to plan, the Bears will only need to hold off until Saturday night to join the rest of the students in their celebrations.


Camellia Senemar covers men's gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected]

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