By Jeremy Rubin
The title defense for the No. 1 men’s gymnastics team began at Berkeley in the Cal Benefit Cup on Saturday. With new players and routines in the fold, Stanford came away with a 407.300 to 382.850 victory against the Bay Area foes.
“We have some very ambitious routines so I expected some missteps in the season opener,” head coach Thom Glielmi said. “But I was pleased with the team’s effort to push the big routines.”
Stanford was boosted by its three all-around competitors. Sophomores Brody Malone and Ian Gunther, each of whom were All-Americans last season for their NCAA championship-winning performances, scored 78.880 and 78.850, respectively. However, it was freshman Brandon Briones who stole the show in his debut for the Cardinal. He posted an all-around score of 82.400, winning three event titles in the process.
“Some might be overwhelmed, but Brandon [Briones] appeared strengthened by the experience and enjoyed the competition,” said Glielmi. “He will definitely be in the mix to challenge for the all-around title when the championships roll around.”
Malone notched the best parallel bars score with a 14.350, and Gunther, along with junior Andrew Bitner, topped the competition with a 13.400 high bar score. Briones finished first on floor, rings and vault with respective scores of 13.750, 13.850 and 14.750. Freshman Riley Loos’ 13.500 score led the field in the pommel horse.
“We have very good depth on all events,” Glielmi said.
Following a championship, many teams face a “title hangover” the following season. This win, while “marginal,” as Glielmi said, will help reignite the hunger for another championship run in coming meets.
“[The team] worked extremely hard last year and stayed focused and were successful,” Glielmi said. “But there can be some complacency when you win [a championship]. I see the guys wanting to get back to training and preparing. This weekend was somewhat of a wake-up as we didn’t have the top score across the country.”
Looking ahead, Stanford’s next competition will be the Windy City Invitational in Chicago on Jan. 18. However, the team’s sights are set beyond just the most immediate meet.
“It’s an Olympic year, so for our sport, and our team, we have a more global perspective,” Glielmi explained. “Because we have a number of team members that are looking to break into the senior international ranks, it helps us be that much better as a collegiate team. We will put ourselves in a position to win the NCAA Championships, in addition to trying to break the Stanford record for most All-Americans in one year.”
The team also has goals beyond the collegiate level.
“But we have a solid group of guys that are positioning themselves to be on the USA National Team,” Glielmi added. “From there, we hope to put some guys on the Olympic team.”
The team’s first meet on the Farm will be the Stanford Open on Jan. 25.
Contact Jeremy Rubin at jjmrubin ‘at’ stanford.edu.