Feb. 4, 2007
Stanford, CA - A fourth straight clinic on consistency rewarded the 5th ranked Stanford women's gymnastics team (SWG) with a convincing victory over Cal-Berkeley today, 196.075 to 189.925, and continued the Card's undefeated run through Pac 10 competition. "I'm just so proud of this team and coaching staff--they put out tremendous effort today and fought for everything. They stayed tough throughout the whole meet and have shown incredible consistency the last four weekends, performing 23 or 24 out of 24 routines regardless of the lineup we put on the floor. That shows that we're not only a good team but a great team," said victorious Head Coach Kristen Smyth, whose likeness ironically adorns the wall in the Haas Pavilion in recognition of Smyth's outstanding contributions as a student-athlete at Cal.
SWG started the meet on the uneven bars, which has been the team's strength this season in terms of consistency and depth. Sophomore Kelly Fee is the lead off rock who sets the tone for the team and she continued her string of hits with a solid 9.75 (Jager, giant 1/1 to overshoot handstand, Arabian double front dismount). The middle stretch of the bar group was solid with hits from sophomores Heather Purnell and Nicole Ourada as well as new All Around sensation junior Alex Pintchouk (stuck double layout dismount). Freshman phenom Carly Janiga rocked her routine for a 9.9 and junior Lauren Elmore, competing on bars for the first time since her freshman year, stuck a double layout at the end of her routine (including a nice piked Jager) for a remarkable 9.75.
The Cardinal vault squad looked to improve on an event that has not been SWG's strength yet this year and were started nicely by Purnell with her best Yurchenko layout full for a 9.775. Junior Stephanie Gentry has been making steady progress and took a huge stride forward with a beautiful Yurchenko full for a 9.85. Ourada and Janiga perform the same vault and both showed great amplitude, but Janiga planted her landing for a career-best 9.925. The team vault total of 49.025 was good enough to match the bars result and give the Card a 98.05 and a three-point lead at the half way mark.
Floor looked to be the greatest test of SWG's depth this afternoon, with regulars Ourada, Purnell, and Yim all sitting out and resting. The core group of Pintchouk, Fee, and Janiga moved to the front of the six-person lineup and all did their usual outstanding work in spite of officiating that was generously labeled by several spectators as "tight". Pintchouk and Fee had very good presentation and solid difficulty (double pike and front rudi for Pintchouk and two double back passes for Fee), but Janiga's performance was simply brilliant, with a nailed landing on her Arabian double front mount and equally impressive finishes on her double tuck and whip to 2 1/2 twist dismount. The classically-lined and balletic Gentry made additional progress on floor and turned in her best work of the season for a solid 9.725, but freshman Blair Ryland just missed on a new last pass (round off, 1 1/2 twist, front tuck) and set up a little drama for junior Aimee Precourt who had her season debut on the event. "I thought we had a great performance from everyone tonight, but particularly from Aimee Precourt, who had to follow a fall on floor, competing for the first time this season, and hit her routine," said Coach Smyth in praise of her junior's steady and dependable performance that capped off a 48.825 on floor.
The Card headed to beam in the last rotation with the win already pretty well in hand, but looking to add to their confidence in the team's ability to close out meets with intimidating, solid performances on the most mentally challenging event. Elmore has been Smyth's hole card on beam, starting the lineup with impressive difficulty (round off, back handspring, layout step out flight series, punch front combination on the beam) and terrific aggressiveness every week. Her 9.75 this afternoon clearly inspired the rest of her teammates who followed with five more routines that all went 9.8 or better. Pintchouk, Fee, Precourt, and Ourada looked completely at ease and shined with both difficulty (two punch fronts for Pintchouk, double back dismount for Fee, two layout flight series for Ourada, and nice back handspring back handspring layout step out for Precourt) and superb execution. Janiga closed out her great All Around performance with an exclamation point and a team-leading 9.9 on her packed routine (front aerial, switch leap to gainer layout, and back handspring layout). Coach Smyth has been very impressed with the freshman who has probably been overlooked in spite of her national ranking. "Carly Janiga did what she has been doing every weekend, giving a rock solid effort on every event and finishing with the highest All Around score of her career [a 39.575]".
The win should be enough to protect the Cardinal's #5 national ranking for this week. Stanford will host Oregon State, Iowa State, and San Jose State this Friday at 7:30 in Maples Pavilion in their annual Breast Cancer Awareness event. Everyone who wears pink will be admitted free and there will be a benefit raffle with great prizes.