Despite all the chaos surrounding this season — with the ongoing pandemic and limited access to events — a light of hope is beginning to shine on Cal men’s gymnastics. The source of that light is a gleaming standout, a new addition to the team who, even as a freshman, will likely be leading the Bears in this odd season.
On Saturday, in Cal’s second matchup of its virtual competitive season, the Bears picked up their second win, this time against No. 12 Army and by a score of 380.7-371.55.
Throughout the competition, the star that shined brightest was freshman Noah Newfeld, who took on the challenge of competing as the team’s sole all-arounder. Though competing in the all-around was a new experience for Newfeld, this fact was not apparent to the audience, given his steady performances on the mat.
“There was definitely more pressure going into the meet to contribute in more events,” Newfeld said. “But the upperclassmen were a big help in teaching me how to handle the pressure and manage my energy level.”
In addition to coming out on top in the horizontal bar and the all-around, Newfeld placed in the top three in three other events. Even on vault, an event he hadn’t yet competed in at the collegiate level, Newfeld garnered a competitive score of 13.4, boosting Cal’s strength in the event.
The Bears were dominant on the parallel bars, largely due to Newfeld. Junior Yu-Chen Lee earned the victory by scoring 13.25 in the event — followed by Newfeld’s 13.15 — and the Bears improved their event score by 2.15 from 62.35 in their last meet against Arizona State.
The blue and gold also managed to impress the pommel horse. Though the win went to Army’s top pommel horse specialist, Cal built off its strong showing in the event from the ASU meet.
Vault was again Cal’s strongest event. Junior captain Caleb Rickard showed off his specialty by tying his career high of 14.35 and led the six otherseven Bears — including three freshmen — to all notching scores above 13 in the event.
“(Saturday) was overall a good performance for us with some highs and lows across the board,” Rickard said in an email. “Being the second meet of the season and second win, it felt good and will definitely help with our momentum moving into this next weekend.”
On the other side of the mat, Army lacked consistency. With that said, some standout performances came from its specialists, who sporadically stole top ranks from Cal in a few events.
Leading the Black Knights with a solid pommel horse performance was senior Matthew Martin, who hit a season-high 13.5 and finished first in the event. Junior Mathew Davis served as an all-arounder for Army and showed that he is capable of consistently garnering scores of 13 and 14. He was excellent on still rings and vault, events in which he captured first and second place, respectively. Davis was followed on vault by a vault specialist, sophomore Corban Barstow, who earned a 13.9 in the event.
Guided by the light of hope, Cal looks next to defeat neighboring Stanford. The Cardinal will not open their season until a meet against William & Mary on Wednesday — only three days before their showdown with the Bears. Can the blue and gold stand strong against their archrival? That question will be answered Saturday.
Eriko Yamakuma covers men’s gymnastics. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.