Feb. 9, 2007
Stanford, CA - The #5 Stanford women's gymnastics team (SWG) set a new season record with a 197.275 that was more than a point better than #15 Iowa State (196.075) and more than three points ahead of #11 Oregon State (194.1). The Cardinal were led by sophomore Nicole Ourada's personal best All Around performance, a remarkable 39.575. "It was wonderful to finally see Nicole compete the way she trains and be rewarded for her beautiful work," beamed a very proud Head Coach Kristen Smyth. A great overall team effort included a stellar All Around contributor from each class--junior Alex Pintchouk also had a career night with a 39.45 and freshman Carly Janiga turned in a solid 39.3. The San Jose State Spartans had a good performance for a 193.175 that earned them a fourth place team finish. More than a thousand fans watched an exciting meet that included competitors, coaches, and spectators dressed in pink as part of Breast Cancer Awareness night. Funds raised through raffles and contributions are going to support the efforts of the Community Breast Health Project.
As the home team the Cardinal started the evening on vault and had one of their best team performances of the year, with nothing less than a 9.8 earned by the full-twisting Yurchenko vaults of Purnell, junior Stephanie Gentry, Ourada, and Janiga. Pintchouk drilled her best Yurchenko layout with a 1/2 twist for a 9.9. One of the most memorable moments of the evening and the season, though, had to be the vault performance of freshman Stephanie Carter, who has been relatively unheralded but has earned tremendous respect from her teammates for her exemplary work ethic and attitude. She competed for the first time this season and debuted a huge layout Yurchenko with a full twist that received a 9.8 from the judges, huge cheers from the fans, and an ecstatic reception from her jubilant teammates.
The Card went to bars in the next rotation and demonstrated in style why they are the top ranked bar team in the nation. Sophomore Kelly Fee led off with what is becoming legendary consistency, nailing one of her best dismounts (an Arabian double front) of the season for a 9.875 that started a trend. Purnell fell on her Geinger release move, but the next three SWG swingers (Ourada, junior Lauren Elmore, and Pintchouk) in a row all scored 9.875s. Janiga put a dramatic exclamation mark on the rotation with a stuck double layout dismount for a 9.95 that gave Stanford a 98.65 at the half way mark and a four tenth lead over Iowa State.
Balance beam is the third rotation for the home team and it is a place that SWG has started to make a mark this year. It is the event that is most often responsible for wins and losses in the sport of gymnastics and has literally no margin for error. All the Card did on this night was to turn in their best performance of the season, a 49.375 that was highlighted by career bests from Fee (9.95 with a drilled double tuck dismount) and Ourada (9.925 with an impressive back handspring to two layout stepouts and s perfect front aerial). Smyth was very impressed with Kelly's work. "Fee has been a really strong and consistent presence in a couple of places for us, but her beam performance in particular was phenomenal tonight--probably the best I have seen her do". Elmore has been Smyth's leadoff hitter on this most mentally demanding event since she came to Stanford and continued to set the tone for the Card with a rock solid 9.875.
SWG headed to the final event, floor exercise, with a comfortable lead but on a mission to turn in a record-setting performance that would advance their national ranking. Purnell struggled with her lead off routine for a 9.675 that put some pressure on the remainder of the lineup, but this is a team that is showing impressive toughness and consistency. Pintchouk responded in the second lineup slot with a beautiful 9.9 routine and the Card never looked back. Fee and Gentry both performed their best floor exercises of the season for a 9.875 and a 9.825 respectively, and then it was time for Ourada to shine. The sophomore drilled a piked full twisting double back mount and planted her double pike dismount for a career best 9.925 that sealed her All Around victory. "It feels great," said the visibly excited and clearly exhausted co-Captain. "All the hard work and energy that our whole team put out together really helped me feel on tongiht".
Janiga bounced out of bounds uncharacteristically on her whip to 2 1/2 twist dismount for a 9.725, but the team's resulting 49.25 was enough to complete a satisfying victory in front of the home crowd at Maples. "This team is a really incredible group of young women...no matter who goes out on the floor to compete, they do so with great pride and enthusiasm and no one has more fun. A wise man once told me take the work seriously but not yourselves and I think this team loves what they do so much that they've really created an ideal balance of work and play," reflected Smyth.
The Card hit the road again next weekend when they travel to Tucson, AZ, to take on the University of Arizona on Friday night. They won't return home to the friendly confines of Burnham Pavilion until March.