Dec. 26, 2002
The forecast looks bright for Stanford women's gymnastics and second-year head coach Kristen Smyth in 2003. Coming off the most successful season in program history, the Cardinal are looking to build off last year's Super Six finish.
"Getting to the Super Six was a real motivator for our team," said Smyth. "They worked very hard over the summer and returned in great physical condition. Additionally, they now trust that we are capable of being with the elite Super Six."
Stanford capped the best season in program history last year with its first-ever appearance in a NCAA Super Six. The Cardinal ended the regular season at 13-5 overall and captured first place honors at the NCAA North Central Regional Championships defeating the University of Georgia and Denver University and earning a trip to the NCAA Championships. The Cardinal then took third in the NCAA Championship preliminary round to advance to its first Super Six Finals. Despite the loss of Katy Herbert, Kristin Jensen and Becky Meldrum to graduation, the Cardinal are very optimistic about the 2003 season.
Three First Team All-Americans return in juniors Kendall Beck, Lise L?veill? and Lindsay Wing, who will lead the charge this year. Seniors Alissa Cooper and Kelsey Stillinger and junior Caroline Fluhrer will captain a squad that promises to be explosive, artistic and dynamic. Weaknesses of 2002 have been transformed into team strengths in 2003, which Smyth contributes to the team's improved training regimen.
Smyth will be supported by second-year assistants Steve Ohel and Larissa Fontaine. Together as a staff they have put together routines that will fully accentuate the athletes strengths and will distinguish the Cardinal from the pack. "I think we have one of the top staffs in the country. It is young and energetic and I think it really gels with the student-athletes," said Smyth. "The team is working really hard and they are enjoying what they are doing."
Smyth and her staff welcome one of the top recruiting classes in the country in Natalie Foley, Jessica Louie and Glyn Sweets. "Each of them brings something special to the program. I think they really fill in the places where we were weak last year as a team."
One of the most exciting things in the Stanford gym this year will be the diversity of talent. "Every athlete has different strengths and this year we have really capitalized on each athletes individual talents. We guarantee that no two routines will look alike! We have athletes that are incredibly powerful and will compete some of the hardest tumbling in the country and we also have elegant performers who will contribute intricate and creative routines."
This year, Stanford continues its challenging schedule while preparing for the NCAA Championships. The Cardinal's ledger starts off well with a competition in Hawaii at the Maui Invitational, a great season opener. Stanford will follow Maui with tough competitions at Denver and in Berkeley against rival University of California.
Competing in the Pac-10 always ensures a demanding schedule for the Cardinal, who will host conference powerhouse UCLA on February 7. Stanford will host a tough four-team meet with Oregon State, San Jose State and Seattle Pacific, before competing against Pac-10 foes Washington, Arizona State and Arizona. The Cardinal will have one final tune-up on March 22 against Oklahoma. UCLA will be hosting the Pac-10 Championships this year and Smyth sites the Bruins as the team to beat.
"UCLA will be strong again this year and four of the twelve teams at nationals last year are in the Pac-10," said Smyth. "We are in one of the top conferences in the country which will serve as great preparation for the post-season."
With a new vaulting horse this year, the vault should be an interesting event. The new horse was introduced this year at the collegiate level and was designed to increase safety and explosiveness. "Ultimately it will benefit the athletes, but it will take some time to adjust," said Smyth. Despite the changes, the vault has the potential to be Stanford's best event this year in terms of depth and talent.
Junior Kendall Beck turned in Stanford's best individual performance in the vault last season, posting a 9.925 in Gainesville last year against the University of Florida. Beck earned a 9.7630 on the vault finals at the 2002 NCAA Championships to finish in eighth place overall and received First Team All-America honors. Sophomore Mandy Delgado, the 2002 Co-Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, will be doing one of the most impressive vaults in the country, a front handspring tuck front with a full twist. Juniors Caroline Fluhrer and Lise L?veill? will round out the top-returning athletes.
The freshman class will make an immediate impact on this event as well. Natalie Foley, Jessica Louie and Glyn Sweets compete strong, powerful vaults with excellent execution. They also have the experience of competing on the new vaulting table last year.
Smyth points out that due to the new vaulting horse, the team may start off conservatively but by April she expects the team to be outstanding on that event. "To have depth on vault is key because it takes a great deal of pounding on the athletes," commented Smyth. "Everybody should get experience this year."
Stanford welcomes back last year's NCAA North Central Regional bar champion, Caroline Fluhrer. She will be joined by freshman Natalie Foley who was a 2001 World Championship team member. "Caroline is our top bar worker," said Smyth. "She has beautiful lines and a flawless routine. Natalie is just unbelievable on bars. She has big releases and interesting combinations that are thrilling to watch."
Lise L?veill? and Lindsay Wing are also looking strong for the Cardinal on bars. Both gymnasts recorded season-highs at the 2002 Regionals and competed on the event for Stanford at the Super Six. "I am already seeing the girls look better on bars than last year in terms of execution and originality. These two athletes are excellent competitors and the team will look to them for leadership on this event."
Another outstanding addition to this year's bar team is freshman Glyn Sweets. "She is incredibly elegant on this event. Her routine is packed with difficulty and the skills she performs emphasize her gorgeous lines."
"This event has the potential to be strong for us, but depth is the one thing we really have to watch," said Smyth. Stanford will have to replace Becky Meldrum, Kristin Jensen, and Katy Herbert due to graduation and Abby Gair due to a medical redshirt. Alissa Cooper, Kendall Beck and freshmen Jessica Louie however, are also stepping up and look to add solid routines with big dismounts for the Cardinal.
Anchoring the balance beam this year will be two of the top beam workers in the country, Lise L?veill? and Lindsay Wing. "They were 2002 Pac-10 Co-Champions, 2002 Regional Co-Champions and NCAA All-Americans. "Lise and Lindsay perform some of the most polished and difficult routines in the nation and continually do so with consistency and grace."
L?veill?'s 9.950 against Arizona last year represented the highest Stanford beam score of the season. Wing had her two top performances at the Pac-10 Championships and NCAA Regionals, posting a 9.900 at both competitions.
Kendall Beck emerged as a leading beam competitor last year and has continued to be solid this season, as has Caroline Fluhrer. "Kendall will look to be as steady as she was last year while adding some phenomenal new skills that will separate her from the rest of the country. Caroline is a solid competitor who came back very focused this season and will be a leader on beam."
"We have so many exceptional beam workers this year making this event spectacular to watch," said Smyth.
The Cardinal team promises to put on a great show for all of its fans this year on the floor exercise. "Our routines will offer a wide range of movement styles, interesting music selection and an improved performance element." Smyth also claims that due to the team's new training program, the floor exercise will vastly improve from last year in terms of power and explosiveness. "Our tumbling is going to be at a much higher level," stated Smyth.
Second Team All-American on floor, Lise L?veill?, returns for Stanford and will look to anchor the lineup. Caroline Fluhrer missed part of last season due to injury, but came back to compete on the floor exercise at NCAA Regionals, turning in a 9.875 and is expected to be a big contributor on the floor.
Lindsay Wing, Mandy Delgado and Marla Ranieri have improved from last year and look to be constant fixtures in the Cardinal lineup. Wing posted a 9.900 at the Pac-10 Championships, Delgado was a consistent performer all year and Ranieri stepped in for the team at the Super Six on floor. "Lindsay is much more powerful this year and has an upbeat routine to debut. The two sophomores, Mandy and Marla are also great performers and are ready to go."
Rounding out the floor team, the Cardinal has Shelly Goldberg, one of the best tumblers in the country and the three freshmen. "These four gymnasts will add an exciting mix of explosiveness and artistry," said Smyth.
"The depth and talent of the 2003 squad is a highlight for me as a coach," said Smyth. "I expect our line-ups to vary often, giving all of the athletes experience and exposure as well as keeping it exciting and interesting for our fans. Our goals as a team are to stay healthy, improve every week and enjoy our experience. I believe that if we meet these goals throughout the season, we will have our best competition on the last day of the year in Nebraska."