Rebuilding Begins for Cal

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The Cal men's gymnastics team appears well on its way to returning to the national prominence that eluded the squad last year, while the women's team appears to be one step closer to being recognized on the national scene.

The men won their home opener Friday posting 221.40 to beat Stanford (214.40) and UC Santa Barbara (203.25). The women's squad lost a close match to No. 19 Washington, 193.375-191.525, in Seattle Sunday, after defeating Seattle Pacific, 188.575-183.675 Friday.

Friday's meet showed strong evidence that the men's team can improve on a 1999 campaign that saw it miss the NCAA team championships after winning back-to-back national titles in 1997 and 1998.

"We were much more prepared than last year," said Tal Moscovitz, who earned All-America honors in the floor exercise and pommel horse at the 99 National Championships. "We will continue our progress. We are going to be very good at the end of the season."

To continue their progress, the Bears need to maintain their strong level of performance on three events while improving on others.

"I thought we performed great on floor, pommel, and high bar," said Cal coach Barry Weiner, the architect of the Bears' national championships in 97 and 98. "We need to work on our parallel bar, our rings, and vault needs to get better."

Weiner does have reason to be excited about this year. The veterans are performing well, and the team is getting strong performances from its freshmen.

Junior David Eskildsen won the high bar with an impressive 9.75, and junior co-captain Andrew Hampy took the vault with a score of 9.55. Freshman Michael Ashe won the pommel horse with a 9.75.

UC Santa Barbara head coach Mircea Badulescu agreed that Cal is looking good so far this year.

"Cal has a very good team," Badulescu said. "They have got lots of potential."

Meanwhile, the women's team is beginning to gain similar respect. At Sunday's meet at Washington, the women turned in a solid performance against one of the best programs in the country.

After completing three of the four events, the Bears were only two-tenths of a point behind Washington. Unfortunately for Cal, its bid for the upset fell short with poor scores on the balance beam.

Regardless, Bears coach Trina Tinti was proud of her squad.

"We did a great job," she said. "They've been to the nationals several times. Cal is up-and-coming. We really gave them a run for their money and surprised them."

Led by another strong performance from senior Leila Khoury, who scored a perfect 9.9 on the vault, the team showed marked improvement over last season. In only their second meet of the season, the Bears' score Sunday would have been their second-highest score last season.

As they prepare to face Arizona State Friday at 7:30 p.m. in what will be the inaugural gymnastics meet at Haas Pavilion, the focus is on the balance beam. The team hopes it will be able to pull off the upset that eluded it in Washington.

"ASU is another top team but we have the talent on beam," said Khoury, the reigning Arab National Champion. "The beam is going to be our focus in practice this week and with our home advantage, hopefully we can pull it all together."


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