April 18, 1998
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Stanford women's gymnast Larissa Fontaine culminated her storybook season tonight at the 1998 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships, hosted by UCLA, by capturing a share of the NCAA vault title with an average score of 9.8625, thus becoming the first-ever Stanford women's gymnast to be crowned NCAA champion. Additionally, she became the first gymnast in NCAA history to win the vault title coming into the tournament as an individual event qualifier.
"Larissa came in really focused on trying to win the event and we knew she could do it if she just did what she is capable of," said first year Cardinal head coach Mark Cook, who helped lead UCLA to the team title last season. "Her first vault was just awesome and it became a matter of just hitting the second vault, and she did. For her to come here as an individual event qualifier (winning the NCAA West Regional vault title) and to win the whole thing is just amazing. We are very proud of her accomplishment here tonight."
Fontaine, who made a remarkable comeback this season from a broken thumb sustained in fall practice, tied Florida senior Susan Hines, the defending NCAA champion, for the title. A sophomore from Deerfield, Ill. (Stevenson HS), Fontaine scored a 9.950 and 9.800, respectively, on her two vaults. Tonight marked the fifth straight meet in which she topped 9.850 on the vault. Two weeks ago, she captured the NCAA West Region vault title with a career-high 9.950.
Fontaine's performance concluded one of the finest seasons ever by a Stanford squad, in which the Cardinal won its first-ever Pac-10 Championship and finsished third at the West Regionals after leading with one event remaining.