NCAAs mark Cal's very last meet as a program final meet

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The most dangerous team is often the one that has nothing to lose. There won't be a next season for the No. 3 Cal men's gymnastics team unlike every other squad competing at this weekend's NCAA Championships in Columbus, Ohio.

The Bears will be leaving it all on the floor.

After hearing of the school's decision to reinstate the Cal baseball team, men's gymnastics is now the only casualty remaining from the initial elimination back in September. And the gymnasts aren't optimistic about the program's return.

"There's nothing more that can be taken away from us," sophomore Jeffrey Langenstein said. "We are playing for ourselves."

The qualifying rounds consist of two sessions on Thursday; Cal will partake in the second session at St. John Arena. No. 2 Stanford will be its main competition - the remaining squads are No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Ohio State, No. 10 Nebraska and No. 11 Iowa. Top-ranked Oklahoma is competing in the first session.

If the Bears advance from the qualifying round to Friday's team championships final, they will almost certainly face the Sooners. The top three teams in each session will move forward.

"We are more than capable of producing the displays to make it until the end," senior Daniel Geri said.

Cal has had strong moments this season, but inconsistencies and injuries have contributed to the squad's 5-7 overall record.

After starting the season with a solid win against then-No. 1 Stanford, the Bears could only muster one more win in the next five encounters with the Cardinal this season. Cal was throttled by its Bay Area rivals in its marquee home meet on March 25 on Senior Day.

Even if Cal doesn't achieve victory in the biggest competition of the season, the top 10 gymnasts in each event still have the opportunity to claim personal glory with individual NCAA titles on Saturday.

In the past two decades, the program has had two national championships, 10 top-five finishes and 14 NCAA individual championships. This season hasn't lived up to their expectations, but the gymnasts still hope to end their last year on a high note.

"We just have to transform our emotions into inspiration," sophomore Dennis Mannhart said. "It's what we've done and what we'll keep doing."

The NCAA Championships mark the final time the Bears will walk out together as teammates. Some will be continuing their careers at different schools, while others will be saying goodbye to the sport.

But the gymnasts know that, for this weekend at least, each and every one of them will keep on jumping, flipping and dismounting until the judges' evaluations.

"It's voluntary insanity," senior Eric Haeussler said of the sport. "But we're all in it together and it's why we love it so much."


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

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