BERKELEY – When the No. 7 California Golden Bears take to Haas Pavilion on Saturday afternoon, they will be looking to start anew in a lot of ways. First and foremost, coming off of a season that saw them fall short of the NCAA Finals for the first time since 1999, the program is under new direction. Associate Head Coach Brett McClure has brought a new attitude and new structure to the Golden Bears gymnastics team. The Bears host their Bay Area rival, No. 3 Stanford in The Big Meet on Saturday at 1 p.m. PT at Haas Pavilion, and look to earn their first team win over the Cardinal since the 2012 season, after going 0-7 in competition last year against their rivals.
One key returner is redshirt senior and team co-captain Donothan Bailey, who missed all of 2013 with an injury. Bailey is a talented all-around gymnast, who is looking to return to his 2012 form, and that journey starts on Saturday.
“It means a lot (to be back out there), college gymnastics is a huge part of my life,” Bailey said at practice earlier in the week. “I really enjoy doing it and being around these guys is something special. It’s been a year since I’ve competed in an NCAA competition and I am just really excited to be back out there. I think we’ve got a very good team and we are going to have a lot of fun.”
The Bears are very young, with a very sophomore and freshman heavy lineup. Some key returning sophomores include all-arounder Kevin Wolting, Takahiro Kawada and Ryan Patterson. In addition, co-captaing Jon Liu is poised to have a very productive junior season.
An added significance to this meet is the fact that it will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks, by broadcasters Brian Webber (play-by-play) and Tim Daggett (color). This is a great opportunity for both Bay Area schools to showcase their programs to a national audience and announce their presence in the national championship landscape early in the season.
“Our program has struggled in the past and in some ways is still struggling, so the more exposure, the better,” said Bailey of the network coverage. “Having the meet televised on our home turf is awesome and I think everyone is really excited and looking to hit, maybe more than normally just because we want people to see how good we are and to support our program.”
Fans are encouraged to come out to Haas Pavilion in Berkeley this weekend to catch what promises to be an exciting meet. The meet begins at 1 p.m. PT and will be preceded by a special Pre-Meet VIP event in the Haas Club. The VIP experience includes a meet-and-greet with Olympians and VIP guests Nastia Liukin, John Macready, Blaine Wilson, Kevin Tan and Sho Nakamori, at a catered pre-meet event. Fans who are attending will also receive special VIP seating for the meet. Proceeds from the ticket sales to the VIP event directly benefit the California Men’s Gymnastics program.