Stanford men’s gymnastics (11-1) took on an arduous task, hosting Japan, Canada and No. 6 Minnesota at the annual International Challenge on Saturday afternoon. The Cardinal team kept up its undefeated NCAA record, coming in second place with a 421.550 team all-around score, outdone only by Japan’s 425.800. Following the home team were Minnesota (405.600) and Canada (392.700).
A season-best pommel horse team score (69.450) opened up the meet for the Cardinal, giving them not only a numerical advantage, but also momentum that would serve them well for the rest of the competition. Senior Akash Modi led the way, as he often does, on the event, notching the highest spot on the podium with a 14.700. Although not one of Modi’s highest career scores on the pommel horse (the highest being 15.500), this performance manifested his high capabilities, and earned him his 12th first-place finish this season.
Freshman powerhouse David Jessen was the first to compete on the rings, posting a career-high 13.500. The Cardinal were able to net an overall 70.050 on the event, their second-highest score this season. After Jessen, senior Taylor Seaton was able to add 13.900 points, while sophomore Josiah Eng added 15.100, placing him third individually in the event. Senior Jordan DeClerk also made a large contribution to the team with an impressively landed performance.
Next up was the vault event, once again featuring Seaton, who posted a team-best score of 14.500, tying with sophomore Grant Breckenridge. Breckenridge has been an important component of the Cardinal team, and has also been named to the U.S. Senior Team after placing seventh at the Winter Cup on Feb. 18. Ultimately, Minnesota, Stanford’s only NCAA foe in the competition, took the event title, placing two gymnasts on the podium: Yaro Pochinka earned a 14.950 and teammate Zach Liebler scored a 14.700.
DeClerk came in clutch once again, posting a season-best 14.750 to start off the Cardinal on the parallel bars. Robert Neff followed up with a 14.550 contribution, as did Breckenridge, who tied with Neff. Twins Barrett and Gareth Weiss made an important appearance, both netting scores over 14.000. Because of this superior set of performances, the team notched a season-high parallel bars score of 70.800.
Gaining on Japan, the Cardinal had an unfortunate time on the high bar, seeing a fall that left them trailing behind their first-place opponents. Still, the Stanford team took the event because of stellar performances from several gymnasts. Modi impressed with a 14.500, closely followed by Seaton’s 14.450 and Neff’s 14.050. Even though Japan’s Daisuke Fudono claimed the event title (15.100), the other members of the national team had a hard time earning high enough scores to win the event team score.
The depth of the Cardinal roster was demonstrated once again, as freshman Bailey Perez earned a career-best 14.150, Seaton notched a season-high 14.650 and junior Jacob Barrus secured a season-best 14.850. The team took the event title with a team score of 71.850, besting Japan’s second-place 71.650.
The team closed the meet in second place, having almost caught up to Japan by the end of the day. Once again, the team proved its worth as it put itself on the international scale, doing exceedingly well.
Next Saturday, though, the Cardinal will hold the most contested meet of the season as it hosts No. 1 Oklahoma. The Cardinal have historically had a tough time defeating the back-to-back national champions, and they will look to garner the energy from this meet to push them onto the podium next week. The competition will be held in Burnham Pavilion and will begin at 4 p.m.
Contact Laura Sussman at laura111 ‘at’ stanford.edu.