The seniors of Stanford’s men’s gymnastics team were sent off in style in their last home meet of their career this past Saturday. Doing battle against not only No. 7 Cal and No. 8 Minnesota but also the Japanese and Canadian Collegiate National Teams, the fourth-ranked Cardinal scored a season-high 443.250 to defeat all the American and Canadian teams and fall just shy (by about two points) of conquering the Japanese team as well.
This matched Stanford’s performance at last year’s Collegiate Challenge, which featured the national teams of Finland and Norway as well as Japan, Canada and Cal. Stanford took second at that meet as well, falling just a few points behind Japan.
Stanford entered the weekend boasting a strong 5-2 record, with its only two losses coming from No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 5 Michigan earlier this month. The team started off the meet by honoring its three seniors: Brian Knott, Michael Levy and Sean Senters. And it truly was their night, as all three notched first-place finishes among NCAA competitors in at least one event.
The event featured two gymnasts who have recently earned spots on the U.S. Senior National Team: Stanford’s Akash Modi and Cal’s Kevin Wolting. This marked the fourth of five “Big Meets” between the Cardinal and the Bears. With this victory, Stanford extended its winning streak over Cal to seven, extending back to last season. Overall, Stanford has won 16 of the past 17 matchups between the two rivals.
The Cardinal started strong on floor, with both Senters and Levy scoring a stellar 15.050 to tie for first place among the American competitors. This marked the second floor victory in a row for Levy, who earned the same score last week to take first place against Arizona State. These two scores helped Stanford take first overall in the floor event, scoring half a point higher (74.300 to 73.800) than second-place Japan.
Next came the pommel horse, apparently named for the vague resemblance of the named apparatus to a saddle. It was Knott’s turn to lead Stanford, scoring a 14.900 to take second place overall, falling short only of Minnesota’s Ellis Mannon, the reigning NCAA pommel horse champion. Senters grabbed third with a 14.850. With the help of sophomore Drew “The Sloth” Willoughby’s career-high 14.650, Stanford took second in this event, barely being edged by the Japanese.
Stanford was next tasked with tackling the still rings, one of the most mind-boggling and physics-defying events of the day. Coming away with a season-high 75.750, Stanford took first among NCAA teams but fell short of the visiting national teams. Junior Brandon Beckhardt did take first place, however, with a career-best 15.650.
The Cardinal went on to take first overall on the vault, an event in which gymnasts are supposed to run as fast as they can at a stationary block of wood and use it to propel themselves into the air beyond. Senters eclipsed all other competitors for the second time with a career-best 15.500; he remains undefeated on vault all year. Sophomore Taylor Seaton grabbed silver at 15.300.
The team also took top honors on parallel bars, surpassing second-placed Cal by more than a full point. Knott knotted up his second team-leading performance of the meet, dazzling with a score of 15.150.
Stanford finished strong on the high bar, scoring a second-place 73.300, again falling behind only Japan. All four of Stanford’s competitors logged career-highs, led again by Knott, who took home his second gold with a 15.150, followed by freshmen Robert Neff and Ryan Sheppard and sophomore Taylor Seaton.
With these victories, Stanford climbs to 7-2 in NCAA competition. The team hopes to build upon the season’s success this weekend when it travels to Illinois to compete twice in three days.
Contact Paul Steenkiste at pws ‘at’ stanford.edu.