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Golden Medals: 3 Bears make NCAA Track & Field Championships, W. Crew 2nd at NCAA

Look elsewhere on CGB for my previews of Cal Men’s Crew and Cal Rugby - both strong candidates to win national titles this weekend.

Bethan Knights is one of the three Golden Bears who will partake in the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships next week.
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3 Golden Bears make the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships

I might have jinxed it in my Golden Medals post last week when I mentioned that I was expecting more Cal Bears at the 2017 NCAA Track and Field Championship than the last year’s contingent of 4. After an injury and a couple of near misses, Cal Track and Field will be sending three representatives to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships up in Eugene, Oregon next week (June 7th - 10th).

Bears punch one ticket each on each of the three days of the NCAA West Regional. A NCAA championship berth typically requires an athlete to be one of the top 12 at the Regional. All three Cal Bears who will compete at the national championship are juniors.

Bethan Knights was the first Bears to make the NCAA Championship thanks to her 7th place finish in the 10,000m on Thursday.

2017 Pac-12 shot put champ Peter Simon was the next bear to make the NCAA championship by placing 6th in the shot put on Friday.

On the final day, Ashley Anderson became the third and final Bears to make the NC with her 8th place finish in the triple jump

Both Simon and Anderson are making a return trip to the NCAA Championship. Simon placed 19th overall last year while Anderson did not place.

Bethan Knights has made the NCAA Championships before, but not in the outdoor track and field. Knights placed 89th in the 2016 NCAA Cross Country Championship in the fall.

The closest near miss for the Bears was Ashtyn Davis on Saturday in the 110m hurdles. The part time Cal Football defensive back won the 110m hurdles at the Pac-12, but placed 13th at the regional to be the first men out.

Also close to advancing was Thomas Joyce. Joyce placed 16th in the 1500m, exceeding his regional seed of 32nd. On the other hand, Robert Brandt was seeded 9th and 11th in the 10,000m and 5,000m, respectively. He had to pull out several laps into the 10,000m and could not start the 5,000m due to an injury.

Good luck to the three Golden Bears next week. The three of them at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships will also officially conclude the 2016-17 Cal Athletics school year.

Cal Women’s Crew placed 2nd at NCAA Rowing

Although the Cal Varsity 8 boat was able to win the early season race in Seattle, the Washington Huskies crew was just too good across the board to be denied last weekend from Lake Mercer in New Jersey. For the first time in the NCAA Rowing history, one school swept all three races. Unfortunately, that school was Washington Huskies rather than the California Golden Bears (Cal won the V4 and 2V8 last year but had a 2nd place finish in V8 to Ohio State).

Washington was dominant all weekend in sweeping the three races. Cal Bears had an easier time with the V4 and 2V8 boats until they were defeated by at least a full length boat margin in the finals. The Cal V8 boat had a harder path, placing 2nd on both Friday (to Michigan) and Saturday (to Washington) to eventually finishing 3rd on the Sunday grand final (where a Cal win would have meant a NCAA Championship repeat) to top Dawg, Washington and also Stanford.

Cal women’s crew does continue the long string of excellence by finishing in the top 3. Nonetheless, the arguably most successful Cal women’s athletics program (both women’s crew and women’s swimming and diving have 4 national titles) will probably still be disappointed by the lack of any individual or team national title this past weekend.

The Bears will lose some key seniors but will also likely to be reloaded and possibly better in 2018.


J.T. Okada named the new Cal Men’s Gymnastics Head Coach

I missed this news from the beginning of May. As I have more or less predicted since the announcement that Brett McClure has decided to move to a USA national team position, Cal Men’s Gymnastics promoted from within to make J.T. Okada the new Men’s Gymnastics head coach.

J.T. Okada doesn’t have McClure’s background as a former Olympic Medalist, but he was at the most recent Rio Olympics. Okada was one of the 2016 Rio Calympian when he served as South Africa’s coach for their delegation of one - Calympian Ryan Patterson.

Okada is familiar with Cal not just from his years on the staff as the assistant coach, but because he was also a Cal alum. Okada graduated in 2009 from Cal with a degree in anthropology. He then went across the bay to UCSF for a master in kinesiology, finishing the degree in 2015. During his undergrad at Cal, Okada was a part of the club team - Golden Bear Gymnastics. He also served as president of the National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics Clubs.

Cal Men’s Gymnastics are perennially ranked in the top 15 in the country. They compete in the MPSF conference along side top ranked (and perennial power house) Oklahoma and 2nd ranked Stanford last year. Unfortunately, despite a small roster size (and short road trips to compete against Stanford 4-5 times an year), Men’s Gymnastics have also been on the chopping block both in 2010 and in the more recent report from late last year. Given the dearth of Men’s Gymnastics programs in the country, Cal should continue to be a good squad...if the program is allowed to exist. One of these years, maybe the Bears can return to the past glory of the 4 NCAA Championships - 1968, 1975, 1997, and 1998. The program celebrated their 1997 team this past year. Expect them to do the same for the 1998 team (many holdover from the ‘97 squad) next year.

Okada joins Walter Chun in men’s golf last spring, Matt McShane in volleyball just a month or so ago, Shayla Houlihan in cross country (she got promoted to a previously vacant position), and Wyking Jones in men’s basketball (by far the most surprising) in transitioning from a Cal assistant coach to the Cal head coach. Cal Athletics did hire Carolie Simmons for women’s water polo, Derek Stark for diving (thanks to the new facility), and (of course) Justin Wilcox for football from outside the department. Nevertheless, that’s fairly sizable turnover in the Cal coaching staff. Only time will tell just how successful all these programs will be, particularly given the uncertain budget (and possibly even leadership...once new chancellor Carol T. Christ takes over) situation of the Cal Athletics.