Jan. 22, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. - Patience has been the byword for the Stanford women’s gymnastics team.
Often that would mean that the present is lacking in some way. But with Stanford, that’s not the case.
On Sunday, the Cardinal (4-0) beat an up-and-coming Washington team, 195.925-195.725, at Burnham Pavilion to extend its home winning streak to 15 and conference unbeaten streak at Burnham to 32, dating back to 1998.
Stanford coach Kristen Smyth has realized that injuries and collegiate inexperience would hold the Cardinal back to some extent early. However, as gymnasts get healthy and incorporate themselves into the lineup, Stanford will grow stronger as the season progresses.
“We still have so much room for improvement,” Smyth said.
Sunday’s meet was an indication that Stanford is on the right track. The Cardinal improved its team score by more than a point from its opener last week, and that was without three-event gymnast Nicole Dayton, who was out with an injury, and with standout freshmen Samantha Shapiro and Ivana Hong limited to one event.
Some start values on vault and floor were low and will increase in difficulty later on as gymnasts get healthier. Therefore, it seems easy to figure that when Stanford is at full strength and its gymnasts are free to compete in multiple events, and they are able to attempt more difficult routines, the potential seems great.
As it was, Stanford clearly built upon its 194.900 NorCal Quad Meet victory of the previous week. The improvement was most evident on the balance beam.
“They performed so much more confidently and aggressively,” Smyth said. “Much more like how they train and prepare in the gym.”
Last week, Stanford scored 48.300. On Sunday, it was 49.100 in a performance that propelled the Cardinal past the Gym Dawgs and into the lead on the third rotation.
Stanford trailed 98.075-97.900 after the first two rotations, but Ashley Morgan’s 9.900 and freshman Rebecca Wing’s 9.875 helped propel the Cardinal to a 147.000-146.975 lead it would not relinquish. In all, Stanford’s top four beam scores of the early season all came on Sunday.
Alyssa Brown, who has altered her routine to compensate for an off-season shoulder injury, competed in the anchor position after a teammate’s fall. In a pressure moment, Brown kept her balance to avoid falling and finished it off to score a 9.7 to save the lead and essentially the meet.
Meanwhile, Pechanec, another senior, went on to score 39.250 in all four events to earn her first collegiate all-around victory in her second collegiate all-around competition. She edged Lauren Rogers (39.175) of Washington (1-2).
The meet also marked the collegiate debut of Stanford freshman Ivana Hong, who scored 9.80 on the vault, her only event. Hong, who has been limited by an ankle injury, was a 2009 world championship bronze medalist on the beam and won U.S. elite titles on beam and vault that same year.
Wing, a 2008 Olympian from Great Britain, performed well in the vital leadoff spot on three events, earning her first collegiate victory by winning the uneven bars with a 9.9 score. She also scored 9.75 on floor exercise.
Meanwhile, Morgan won both the floor and the beam, with 9.9 scores. It was the third time the junior has had multiple 9.9 scores in the same meet, and it marked her sixth consecutive 9.9 on the floor, where she has earned 12th victories in her past 13 meets.
Sophomore Shona Morgan, a 2008 Olympian from Australia, scored 9.825’s on both beam and bars – performances Smyth described as “stunning” -- as well as a 9.7 on floor while competing in three events for the second consecutive week.
The meet was attended by about 30 gymnastics alumnae spanning all eras of the program, which began in 1978. Among those present were Stanford’s two NCAA champions, Carly Janiga and Larissa Fontaine, 14-time All-America Tabitha Yim, 10-time All-America Natalie Foley, and the program’s first All-America, Marilyn Chapman.
The Cardinal, which moved up two spots Monday in the national rankings to No. 12, returns to action Friday night at No. 10 Oregon State.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics
Winners and Stanford scores: