The 2021 MPSF Championships was essentially a rematch between No. 1 Oklahoma (9-0-1, 6-0-1 MPSF) and No. 3 Stanford (7-2-1, 5-1-1 MPSF) of their tie three weeks ago. However, a third MPSF championship will have to wait for head coach Thom Glielmi and the Cardinal.
Although Stanford claimed five out of the seven individual titles, the Cardinal’s 411.550 points fell just short of Oklahoma’s 412.750. No. 13 Air Force with 388.350 points edged out No. 11 California with 386.950 points for the third-place spot.
The Cardinal started its day on the vault and parallel bars, both apparatuses where it is the top-ranked team in the nation.
The team lived up to its ranking with a strong 72.500 on the vault, one-tenth higher than Oklahoma. Sophomore Zach Martin led Stanford with a season-high 14.750, finishing second on the apparatus behind Oklahoma senior Gage Dyer’s 14.800.
Heading to the parallel bars with just under a two-point lead, the Cardinal lost a little bit of its edge. Its 69.100 score was the lowest score in the team’s last four meets.
However, senior Blake Sun earned his fifth individual title with a 14.450, ahead of Oklahoma’s Matthew Wenske and Alan Camillus. Sophomore Brandon Briones also earned a season-high 13.600 on the parallel bars.
Extending its lead to 5.300 points, the Cardinal went to the high bar. Juniors Brody Malone and Ian Gunther went one-two on the apparatus, respectively. Malone earned a 14.400, the only score in the 14.000 range on the high bar. Gunther scored a season-high 13.600 on the apparatus.
The momentum of the meet switched from the Cardinal to the Sooners once Stanford headed to the floor exercise. After earning a season-high score a week ago against Army, the Cardinal dropped more than three points with a 66.350 after counting three scores in the mid-12.000 range this meet. Briones claimed the bronze medal on the apparatus with a season-high 14.350.
Oklahoma junior Morgan Seyler bested the rest of the field on the floor exercise with a 14.850, with Dyer finishing three-tenths behind. Four rotations in, the Sooners grabbed a 2.800-lead after the Cardinal’s subpar performance.
Now, Stanford could not afford any mistakes on the next two events: pommel horse and still rings.
The Cardinal swept the podium on the pommel horse with Gunther leading the charge with a season-high 13.900. Sophomore J.R. Chou finished right behind Gunther with a career-best 13.850. Malone rounded out the top three with a 13.700.
However, Oklahoma’s strong performance on the parallel bars extended its lead to 5.600 points over Stanford.
But the Cardinal was not going to give up on its last event — the still rings. Stanford was close to mounting another comeback against the Sooners, just as it did in its previous meeting against Oklahoma, earning a season-high team score of 69.750 with season-highs from Gunther (14.350) and Briones (14.250). Gunther claimed his second individual title of the meet on the still rings.
Malone closed out his all-around campaign with a 13.900 on the still rings, en-route to an 83.050 and claiming his second-straight all-around title. Briones finished two-tenths behind Malone.
Ultimately, Oklahoma’s lead was too much for Stanford as the Sooners put up five consistent routines on the high bar to earn its ninth-consecutive MPSF championship.
The Cardinal looks to the NCAA Championships two weeks from now on April 16 and 17. Stanford will seek to defend its team title for the first time since 2012.