Stanford’s No. 2 men’s gymnastics will have an opportunity to prove themselves this weekend as they travel to Champaign, IL, to take on No. 5 Minnesota and No. 6 Illinois on Saturday afternoon.
All three teams reached the NCAA Championships last April as the Cardinal walked away with a fourth-place finish at the hands of Minnesota’s and Illinois’ respective second- and third- place performances. Tomorrow’s dual will offer the Cardinal a chance for redemption with all three teams hitting the mat at Huff Hall, located not far from the State Farm Center, which will play host to the 2019 NCAA Championships.
Having finished in the top five in the NCAA every season since 2006, the Cardinal are on a trajectory course that will likely see them return to Champaign for the national championships come mid-April. Until then, the Cardinal gymnasts will seek to improve their scores with top-ranked Minnesota and Illinois up next on the schedule.
Saturday’s meet comes exactly a week after Stanford hosted Cal and reigning Olympic Champion Japan in the International Collegiate Open in front of a near-capacity crowd at Burnham Pavilion.
Brody Malone highlighted the Cardinal’s performance, snagging his third all-around title (84.100) of the season. His 84.28 three-score average in the all-around ranks him first in the NCAA. The freshman also took the title in the high bars, tallying a season-best score of 14.750. His outstanding performance over the weekend earned him his third College Gymnastics Association (CGA) Rookie of the Week selection of the year.
Graduate student Ryan Sheppard also recorded a season-best (14.150) on the high bars to give Stanford their best team score (70.400) of the season in the event. Along with Malone, junior Connor Lewis also found a title after his 14.750 score on the vault propelled him into first with a sizable 0.200 lead over the rest of the field.
Despite the Cardinal’s winnings, the final standings had the World Champions on top. Japan boasted a final score of 424.500 to take the top seat on Saturday. The Cardinal trailed in second with 419.350, while Cal finished third (395.850).
This past weekend’s festivities should not be looked at as a dull point, however. The Cardinal men faced Olympic-level competition, including a few of the world’s most polished gymnasts, and they responded with some of the best scores of the year. As a testament to their performances over the weekend, seven Cardinal were ranked in the top five in individual events this week.
Aside from Malone’s No. 1 ranking (84.28) in the all-around and No. 2 seating (14.20) in the high bars, sophomore Bryan Perla comes in at No. 2 (14.65) in the floor exercise followed by Sheppard in fourth (14.58). Sophomore Blake Sun sits in fourth (14.46) in the parallel bars, while senior Grant Breckenridge ranks fifth (14.31) in the same event. Lewis rounds out the Cardinal’s top performers with a No. 3 ranking (14.70) in the vault.
Malone and company hit the mat in Champaign tomorrow at noon PST.
Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’ stanford.edu.