According to the UCSB men’s gymnastics Head Coach Mircea Badulescu, this year’s Gauchos “are the greatest men’s gymnastics team in school history.”

That is a heavy statement considering the program will be dropped after this season.

Badulescu, in his 18th season as head coach, hopes the Gauchos can further its legacy at the National Championship on April 5-7 in Norman, Okla.

Over the break, Santa Barbara competed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Conference Finals and had mixed results. The goal for the Gauchos was to beat then No. 12 Nebraska and punch their ticket to the National Championships as a team. Unfortunately, the Gauchos placed sixth in the competition behind Oklahoma (219.225), Cal Berkeley (217.200), Stanford (207.650), Nebraska (205.825) and Air Force (202.850). The sixth-place finish eliminated UCSB from the team portion of the National Championship in Norman, but eight individual gymnasts landed spots in the competition.

“I’ve said all season this team has the potential to be the best ever here at UCSB,” Badulescu said. “Unfortunately we didn’t place our entire team in the competition, but we are traveling and competing with nearly our entire team and there is obviously something to be said for that.”

Senior Michael Kelley Sang-Ho will lead the Gauchos. Kelley was nominated for the Nissen Award, which is handed out to the nation’s top gymnast.

Kelley will compete in the all-around competition along with co-captain Stephen Smith and junior Geoffrey Howell. Junior Donald Mahr, who qualified in three events, and junior Daniel Levine, who qualified in two events, will join the team. Rounding out the squad for Santa Barbara are sophomore Andre Badilla, senior Dushan Mikichi, and standout freshman Jay Yee.

Badilla was the Gauchos’ top finisher in the MPSF Conference Finals with a seventh-place finish on the pommel horse.

“We were hoping to qualify as a team for the obvious reasons,” Kelley said. “But we were also hoping it would help rally sentiment on the national level to save this program from elimination at season’s end.”

Though the gymnastics program is expected to get the ax, both the men’s and women’s teams still have hope to raise the $4 million needed to save the program.

“I can guarantee one thing about the upcoming championships, we will make our mark and have some gymnasts finish very high,” Kelley said. “When we leave Oklahoma there will be no doubt in the spectators and opponents eyes that this team can perform at the highest level and should be saved.”