Numbers tell meaningful stories. They form patterns, unveil improvements and urge inconsistencies into dependability — but sometimes their stories can only take you so far. And while numbers are beautifully important to a sport as technical as gymnastics, can they tell the whole story?
Let’s consider Cal’s Saturday away meet against Utah — two teams whose numbers divulge stories of strength, improvement and skill. These numbers can tell you many things.
The Bears secured their highest overall season score of 197.975 against UCLA last Saturday, only failing to break the revered 198.000 because of an uncharacteristic floor rotation. The Utes notched an impressive 198.200 against UCLA a few weeks ago, one of only four teams across the nation to break 198.000 this season.
Utah lost its first Pac-12 meet against Arizona State on Monday, while Cal has yet to lose a single meet this season. The Utes posted a 197.975 a month ago — the Bears only achieved this last week. Pac-12 rankings show that Cal claims No. 1 and Utah No. 2. On a national scale, both teams rank within the top five, but the Utes maintain the lead at No. 4, with the Bears No. 6.
So, again, do these numbers tell the whole story? Some may argue that numbers do in fact reveal the entire narrative: numbers show you the rate at which teams are improving or faltering, if some score was arbitrarily low or impressively high, which events a team is strongest on, what mistakes coaches should focus on — and the list only continues.
Some may argue that the numbers can paint a picture so clear that you can know pretty much exactly what to expect, but is this really the case? Can numbers account for uncharacteristic performances such as the Bears final rotation on floor against the Bruins or the Utes vault champion falling on her prized event against Arizona State?
In a sport like gymnastics, can numbers really offer secret information that will be critical to overtaking another team?
“We did a lot of that work this week and we’ll continue to do that next week as we prepare to go out and have a great meet,” said co-head coach Justin Howell. “I don’t think that you can prepare for another team, but certainly the energy there will be electric, and we had that environment here tonight.”
Can numbers explain how an electric arena vastly alters the outcome of a meet? How added confidence or building nerves can be the difference between victory and defeat? All of these unknowns and inexplicable realities are often what makes the difference, so is it fair to say that numbers have this next to impossible ability to paint the whole picture?
One thing is definite: Utah has a gymnastics environment unlike many others, one that will certainly contribute to the performances on both sides of the podium.
“I love to compete and I know Utah is a very big environment for competition,” said freshman standout eMjae Frazier. “Especially to see a packed place, a packed arena that big and it’s always like that — to be able to see that during the regular season is going to be really great. It’s going to be really great practice for postseason as well.”
Numbers are powerful. They tell meaningful stories. But do they tell the whole story?