No. 11 Cal Heads To MPSF Championships
BERKELEY – The No. 11 California men's gymnastics team has reached season-best overall team scores in each of the last two meets. Team captain Caleb Rickard hopes the best is still yet to come.
The Golden Bears will seek their third straight season best this Saturday when Cal travels to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the 2021 MPSF Championships, hosted by Air Force. Cal will battle the Falcons, No 1. Oklahoma and No. 3 Stanford at 12 pm PT from Cadet West Gym.
"Consecutively scoring season highs as a team has been a great feeling and has definitely built some momentum," Rickard said. "These upward strides that we've been making the past few weeks are exactly what we're looking for as we head into the postseason."
Rickard added that as much as the Bears have progressed in the last two meets, he doesn't believe the team has peaked yet, which he feels is a good thing since the best time to peak is at the conference meet and hopefully the NCAA Championships.
The next goal that Rickard wants to see Cal achieve is putting together a complete meet, where the Bears execute every event to the best of their abilities. He thinks his squad is capable of achieving this, and he believes the Bears will surprise some people in the remaining weeks of the 2021 campaign.
"Heading into MPSFs, our main goal is to continue the upward trend we're on as well as refine some smaller details in each routine," he said. "In our last meet against Oklahoma, some guys added in a few new skills and upgrades. This week, we're looking to solidify those new skills and new routines. Our team lacks some of the difficulty other teams in the country may have, which is why our mindset shifts to execution. If we can execute our routines better than our opponents, our scores will show that."
Rickard owns Cal's top mark of the 2021 season with his 14.650 on vault, and he's also secured marks of 14.600 on two other separate occasions. His top vault score currently ranks tied for seventh in the country.
Being strong on vault has been a goal of Rickard's since even before he first arrived at Cal.
"Growing up, I would watch a lot of NCAA men's gymnastics and set goals for myself to one day achieve when I got to college; one of these being to All-American and even win an event title at nationals," Rickard said. "As cool as it would be to win this event at nationals for myself, it would be even cooler to do it for Cal. Being able to win a title for Cal and show others that we are a top team would be incredible, and is something I hope to accomplish during my last two years."
At the outset of the season, head coach JT Okada tabbed Rickard and Darren Wong as the squad's team captains for 2021. Wong hasn't been able to compete this season due to injury, but he's still assisting Rickard with team captain duties in every other way that he can.
Rickard has thoroughly enjoyed the leadership responsibilities that come with being a captain.
"This year has been challenging with the pandemic as well as such a young team, but I am constantly learning," Rickard said. "One way Darren and I aimed to lead this team was through our own actions. It was challenging finding new ways to bond and build that chemistry as a team before we were all back on campus, which was something I never planned for. All of these challenges though we've been able to overcome and I've learned so much in my first year as a captain. I enjoy being a leader on this team and I'm proud of how far we've come in a year like this."
Rickard gets his next opportunity to lead the Bears this Saturday against some of the top programs in the country at the MPSF Championships.
The field for the 2021 NCAA Championships will be revealed on Tuesday, April 6, at noon PT. The national championships take place April 16 and 17 from Minnesota.