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Golden Medals: Winter season previews (Gymnastics, Indoor Tennis, Indoor Track and Field)

Other than Indoor Tennis, these “winter sports” won’t have their championships until next Spring

Golden Bears had a historic win at Utah in the 2018 season, what will the 2019 season bring?
Cal Women’s Gymnastics Twitter

After covering the prospects of Cal Men’s Swimming and Diving (early favorite for the NCAA title in 2019) and Women’s Swimming and Diving (one of 3-4 teams in the mix of a wide open field in 2019) last week, it’s time to take a quick look at the other Cal Athletics programs with a shot of national championship during the winter season.

For the “winter season”, Cal will be vying for NCAA championships in Men’s and Women’s Gymnastics (championships are in late April) as well as Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track and Field (championships are in early March). Additionally, Cal tennis will be trying to win the ITA Indoor Championships in early February.

Cal Women’s Gymnastics earn highest ever preseason ranking of No.8

Expectation is the new challenge for the Cal Women’s Gymnastics program that have been on an upward trajectory for the past few years. Golden Bears have now achieved their highest preseason ranking in history when it was announced that the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association ranked the program as the

For a team that returned many key gymnasts from the squad that made it to the NCAA Championships last year, the superstar to watch will be 2016 Jamaican Calympian Toni-Ann Williams who was granted a 5th year of eligibility after ruptured her achilles in 2017. Williams had a big bounce back year for the Bears in 2018, including the final floor routine that gave the Bears a historic victory at then 4th ranked Utah.

But the Bears squad is more than just Toni-Ann Williams. Kyana George had a fantastic freshman year as the other all-around gymnast for the Bears. Many other talented Cal gymnasts shone last year in specialist roles.

Bears also added a freshman class that has a ton of junior olympic experiences. It just might vault the Bears to the top of the Pac, in another competitive year for the conference. UCLA Bruins are the defending NCAA champs in women’s gymnastics.

The task to make it back to the NCAA Championship, which Cal has done as a team in 2 of the past 3 seasons, will be harder in 2019 as the NCAA has opted to decrease the field from 12 to 8 schools in the final championships. If this preseason ranking is accurate, Cal Bears should be back to their 3rd NCAA championships as a team in 4 years.

Cal Men’s Gymnastics - the most underrated perennial top 10 program in Cal Athletics?

Since the number of Men’s Gymnastics programs across the country is not that high, Cal Men’s Gymnastics finishing every year in the top 10 (2018 saw them finished 6th in the country) may not mean as much as it does in some other sports.

Nonetheless, Cal Men’s Gymnastics remain a perennial participant at the NCAA championships.

Bears graduated Yordan Aleksandrov who finished 4th overall in the country at the NCAA Championships. The good news is that Kyte Crigger, who finished 5th overall, is back for his junior campaign.

5 other Golden Bears also participated at the NCAA individual competition, after the team finished 6th overall. Aaron Mah, Mitchell Awisus, Jonthan Wang, Shane Sadighi, and Harrison Plate should all be back this year.

Last year, Cal Men’s Gymnastics saw J.T. Okada ascend to the head coaching role. The switch in leadership was a smooth one. Okada served as the coach for Calympian Ryan Patterson, representing South Africa, in the 2016 Rio Olympics as well. It would be interesting to see how many Golden Bears, including several international ones, on the current roster can make it to the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Cal Women’s Tennis - perfect blend of veteran guile and tested youth?

While the ITA Indoor Championships may not that big of a deal, Cal Athletics do include the 2016 ITA championship as a part of the 98 team national championships claimed by the school.

With freshmen in No.1 and No.2 courts last year, Cal Women’s Tennis did not make the NCAA championships. However, those two freshmen are now sophomores. Along with now senior Olivia Hauger, sophomores Julia Rosenqvist and Anna Bright are all ranked in the top 60 of the latest ITA singles rankings. Bright with fellow sophomore Jasie Dunk are also ranked 17th in doubles.

Unfortunately for the Bears, the path to another ITA Indoor championship title will be tough since the Bears are not one of 15 teams hosting a kickoff in early January. Bears will be traveling to South Carolina (weather never know for these winter travels) to try to claim one of 15 spots to join host Washington at the 16 team event in February.

Nonetheless, I expect the weekend in South Carolina to be a good experience for the still young Cal squad, who should hopefully be back in the NCAA championships this spring.

Cal Men’s Tennis - time for the best sophomore class in the country to shine?

Cal Men’s Tennis is in a similar position as the women in that they also will be traveling to Texas A&M and face Virginia, who had been a recent men’s tennis dynasty, in the first round.

Bears also suffered some growing pain despite having the top ranked freshman class in the country last year.

A strong fall has several Golden Bears in the rankings right now. Paul Barretto is the top ranked Bears at 98th in singles. Two different doubles pair are ranked in the top 20.

For both men’s and women’s tennis, the indoor championship follows the typical dual meet scoring where the side that won 2 of 3 doubles set takes the doubles point. Then, one point each is awarded to the winner of the 6 singles matches.

To shorten the match, there is no-ad scoring which makes it much tougher to hold serve since deuces are also break points.

Cal Indoor Track and Field

March 8-9th from Birmingham, AL will be the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.

To prep for that, Bears will travel to Seattle 3 times during the Indoor season. The Cal men finished 20th last year, but will likely lose hurdler Ashtyn Davis, who will likely skip his final track season to prep for the NFL draft. Cal women last year saw Lauren Martinez in pole vault and Bethan Knights in distance running do well at the NCAA. Redshirt senior Knights missed the entire Cross Country season; I don’t know if she’s good to go for the indoor season.

One Bears to watch is women’s hammer thrower Camryn Rogers, who won the U20 world championship representing Canada this past summer.