The UCSB men’s and women’s gymnastics teams competed in their first dual meet of the season at the Air Force Academy this past weekend. Though the men and women competed in the same gym, the results were worlds apart.
The men’s gymnastics team shot the Falcons down to continue its consistent improvement, while also posting its first two wins (2-2) of the young season. Santa Barbara dominated Air Force all the way, setting three school records Friday night and breaking another two Sunday afternoon.
On Friday, UCSB set a school record of 203.050 in the team all-around competition, thanks in large part to the record-breaking performances by juniors Stephen Smith, Donald Mahr and Geoffrey Howell.
Co-captain Stephen Smith broke a school record on the vault with a score of 9.15, only to have it topped by Geoffrey Howell, who scored a 9.3 on Sunday.
“Howell was amazing when you consider that he picked up that particular vault routine in the last week,” UCSB Head Coach Mircea Badulescu said. “That vault is one of the toughest on the world level and he nailed it in impressive fashion.”
Mahr set the record on the high bar at 9.05 on Friday. The junior broke his own record Sunday with a score of 9.1.
Santa Barbara’s record-breaking spirit carried over to the entire team as it compiled nine individual first-place finishes. Junior Daniel Levine and senior Michael Kelley Sang-Ho led UCSB with individual all-around titles. Sang-Ho won the all-around competition Sunday with a score of 50.200 and finished first on the pommel horse (8.400).
Daniel Levine was hot Friday night, bringing home a first on the pommel horse (8.850) and in the individual all-around (50.800), complemented by a strong third-place finish (8.300) on the parallel bars.
“The coaches at Air Force commented to me that this was the best UCSB team they had ever seen,” Badulescu said. “Stanford and Cal both said the same thing, and that moral encouragement has made this team eager to take on challenges beyond their own expectations.”
Coming off improved team scores in three consecutive meets, the women’s team was unable to continue the streak and slid back a bit on Friday scoring 184.725, its second-highest score of season.
Sunday was a completely different story; as has been the trend, the Gauchos suffered some major injuries and were only able to muster a team score of 149.050.
UCSB suffered additional setbacks when Rosie Hipskind and Kalli Lauda re-aggravated previous injuries. Neither competed on Sunday.
“I decided to hold out Erika Winn and Nicole Longnecker on Sunday because of nagging injuries that I didn’t want to become serious,” UCSB Head Coach Alanna Trimble said. “On top of missing Hipskind and Lauda, we were unable to have a full lineup in each event and that is the reason for the low score.”
The news wasn’t all bad for Santa Barbara though, as senior Jen Rudy scored a 9.800 on the balance beam good enough to land her in third place. Freshman Lesley Ross continued her outstanding debut season also taking home a third-place finish, with a score of 9.650 on the vault.
Ross also competed in the individual all-around for the first time this season, scoring an impressive 36.500 on Friday, then significantly improving on Sunday to score a team season-high 38.275.
“It was nice to be able to compete well in the all-around competition,” Ross said. “But the injuries were truly unfortunate because they hold the team back from competing at the level we know we can.”