Jan. 2, 2001
Looking to be a Georgia Peach
The Stanford women's gymnastics squad begins its 2001 season this Saturday, January 6 at the Super Six Challenge in Tuscaloosa, AL. The Cardinal, ranked No. 7 in the GymInfo Preseason Coaches' Poll, will begin its quest for a berth in the NCAA Championships, set for April 19-21, 2001 in Athens, GA. Stanford opens its 2001 home campaign on Jan. 19 against top-ranked and defending national champion UCLA in a meet at Maples Pavilion.
The Cook File
Stanford head coach Mark Cook enters his fourth year at the helm of the Cardinal women's gymnastics program. In his first three seasons, Cook has guided Stanford to the 1998 Pac-10 Championship and an apperance in the 1999 NCAA Championships. Cook has produced the Card's first-ever individual National Champion, three Regional Champions and seven All-Americans, while Stanford gymnasts have established nearly every school record under his tenure.
Super Six Challenge
Stanford will start the 2001 season with a bang, participating in the prestigious Super Six Challenge in Tuscaloosa, AL. All six squads are ranked in the Preseason Top-10, as the No. 7 Cardinal join host and fifth-ranked Alabama, No. 2 Georgia, No. 3 Michigan, No. 9 Penn State and No. 10 Florida. The meet will be aired at a later date on ESPN.
Lucky Number Seven
Stanford enters the 2001 season as the No. 7 team in the nation according to the GymInfo Preseason Coaches' Poll. The Cardinal finished the 2000 campaign at No. 13 following a year in which it was 6-2 overall and placed sixth at the Pacific-10 Conference Championships.
No Easy Task
The 2001 schedule is a grueling one, as Stanford will face 12 teams ranked in the Preseason Top 20, including five in the season-opening Super Six Challenge. All five of the Cardinal's home opponents are ranked, as Stanford will host No. 1 UCLA, No. 18 Minnesota, No. 11 Arizona State, No. 12 Oregon State and No. 15 Brigham Young. On the road, the Cardinal will battle No. 16 Washington and No. 20 Arizona as well as BYU. Stanford travels to Berkeley on Feb. 18 to face California, the only unranked team on the 2001 docket.
In order to advance in the NCAA postseason, Stanford will have to battle through one of the toughest women's gymnastics conferences in the country. Of the seven Pac-10 schools that compete in women's gymnastics, only one - California - is unranked. UCLA, the defending national champion, leads the way in the 2001 rankings at No. 1, followed by No. 7 Stanford, No. 11 Arizona State, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 16 Washington and No. 20 Arizona.
An All-American Trio
Stanford features a pair of returning All-Americans in junior Katy Herbert and junior Jennifer Exaltacion. With a 9.863 performance on beam at the 2000 NCAA Championships, Herbert placed third and earned First Team All-America accolades. Exaltacion was named to the Second Team on beam and in the all-around with 9.85 and 39.225 scores, respectively. Junior Kristen Jensen is just one year removed from her 1999 First Team All-America performance on bars.
Stanford has just one senior on the 2001 squad, however, it does not get much better than two-time All-American Jennifer Exaltacion. Stanford's all-time record-holder with a 9.975 mark on the balance beam, she achieved Second Team All-American status last season in both the all-around and beam. A talented and multi-faceted gymnast, her leadership will prove vital to the Cardinal's run at national prominence.
The 2001 Cardinal will feature three talented juniors in Katy Herbert, Kristen Jensen and Becky Meldrum. Herbert and Jensen are previous All-Americans, while Meldrum's inspiring 2000 season led to the creation of the "Becky Meldrum Guiding Light Award." Herbert, the two-time defending Region I Co-Champion on beam, fashioned one of the best seasons ever by a Cardinal gymnast on the balance beam in 2000, finishing third at the NCAA Championships en route to First Team All-American honors. Jensen, who set career highs on four events in 2000, is looking to regain the form that earned her Second Team All-American accolades on bars following her freshman season. As Stanford's lead-off competitor on beam last year, Meldrum was named the Cardinal's most consistent beam gymnast.
Stanford's sophomore class took a blow when all-around performer Abby Gair suffered a season-ending injury, however, the Cardinal still have a pair of outstanding second-year gymnasts in Alissa Cooper and Kelsey Stillinger. Cooper competed in all 11 meets in her freshman campaign on both the vault and bars and, along with teammate Larissa Fontaine, was chosen as Stanford's most consistent performer on bars. Stillinger, who last year captured the individual beam title in a win over Arizona, will look to be a significant contributor on both beam and vault.
The 2001 roster includes six freshmen that compose perhaps the best recruiting class in Stanford history. Four have competed with the U.S. National Team, one was a National Vault Champion, while one was a gold medallist at the 1999 Pan-American games and a member of the 2000 Canadian Olympic Team. Lise L?veill?, the gold medallist on beam at the 1999 Pan-Am Games, comes to The Farm fresh off a trip to the 2000 Summer Olympics with the Canadian National Team. Robin Phelps and Lindsay Wing, who have a combined nine years of U.S. National Team experience, both have the potential to be standout all-around performers.
Stanford, which boasted the eighth-best beam squad in the country last year, return three gymnasts who competed 11 times on that event in 2000, including school record holder Jennifer Exaltacion. 2000 All-American Katy Herbert is the two-time defending Region I Co-Champion while Kelsey Stillinger won the event last year against Arizona. Becky Meldrum, who anchored the 2000 beam corps, missed just one meet while matching her career-best with a 9.825 mark at NCAA Regionals.
Home Opener vs. UCLA
On Jan. 19, Stanford will host a stellar gathering of gymnasts when No. 1 ranked and defending national champion UCLA comes to Maples Pavilion. The meet, scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., will feature five 2000 Olympians, including three Bruins who competed for the fourth-place American squad at Sydney: Kristen Maloney, Jamie Dantzcher and Alyssa Beckerman (alternate). Two members of the Canadian national squad will also compete: Stanford's Lise L?veill? and UCLA's Yvonne Tousek.