By Sam Fisher
No. 3 Stanford men’s gymnastics, armed with the talent to compete for an NCAA title, begins its 2014 season Saturday at No. 7 Cal in Berkeley.
The Cardinal is coming off an impressive third-place finish at the NCAA Championships in University Park, Pa., last April.
Stanford will have to replace the production of Eddie Penev ’13, who graduated as a three-time national champion and nine-time All-American. Penev was an all-around star for the Cardinal and consistently dominated on the floor exercise.
The Cardinal does return one standout from last year’s championship events: junior Brian Knott. Knott scored a career-best 15.450 in the parallel bars in the team finals for a first-place finish, and Saturday will provide an opportunity to see how that effort propelled him in the offseason.
Another upperclassman to watch out for is senior Sean Senters. Senters has two seasons of eligibility left after a redshirting in 2011, and he has already established himself as one of the top gymnasts in the country. Senters earned All-America honors in 2012 and 2013 for his performance on the floor exercise and added All-American status on the vault in 2013.
Saturday’s matchup with Cal will also provide a first look at the Cardinal’s new freshman class. Stanford has six freshmen on the team, and all will look to make an impact early.
The season is filled with tough challenges for Stanford. The Card faces No. 7 Cal on consecutive Saturdays to open the season, first in Berkeley and then at Stanford. Then Stanford hosts a tournament that will see Cal, Washington and No. 1 Michigan come to the Farm.
In the team’s first competition after the tournament, Stanford heads to Norman, Okla., to take on the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners. The end result: By Feb. 8, Stanford will have faced the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 7 teams in the country in competition.
Stanford’s season begins at Cal Saturday at 1 p.m. in a meet that will be televised on Pac-12 Networks. The Cardinal’s home opener is set for Jan. 18 at 4 p.m., also against Cal.