Feb. 5, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. -
It's one thing to invent a move, it's another to do it for the first time in collegiate competition, and still another to do it with your closest friends screaming their support -right in your ear.
When it was done, Nicole Pechanec, the author of the "Pechancova," matched their energy with a leap, scream, and clap of her own.
The funny thing for the Cardinal gymnastics team Saturday in its 196.975-193.825 dual-meet victory over San Jose State at Burnham Pavilion was Pechanec's was only one such moment in a team performance worthy of a few joyous screams and jubilant cheers.
Stanford not only earned its high score of the season, but did so with some of its top performers sitting out some routines to rest, and newcomers filling the void with routines so uplifting that it makes it hard not to think of the possibilities within the realm of this year's team.
"It was a great day," Pechanec said. "This team was amazing."
Just how amazing? The Cardinal's season average score of 196.550 marks the best four-meet start in school history. Stanford is 9-0 and has flat-out quality up and down the lineup. That was the theme of Saturday's victory for coach Kristen Smyth.
"Their work and performance is effortless," Smyth said. "It's never a situation where we're not sure what's going to happen. And that is such a great feeling to have, especially early in the season. Now, we know that we can shift the lineups around and anyone can step in at any time and do a great job, not just a good job."
The gymnasts feel it too. It's a confidence unmatched in recent memory, and a growing feeling that this may be a special year. The meet was full of illustrations, with five scores in the 9.9's, like Pechanec's.
For the Jersey girl, it was, in the words of Smyth, "A spectacular night."
Pechanec had been waiting for the right moment to pull off the release move called "the Pechancova," after her surname while competing for the Czech Republic national team.
"I had a great warmup," she said. "It was like, `go for it.' "
Pechanec has had it in her arsenal since she was 15.
"I do that same skill from the low bar to the high bar," said Pechanec, who was officially credited with the move because she was the first to use it in a World Championships meet. "It's the same exact thing, but I do a half-turn and catch the same bar. So, it's almost like a mirror image.
"We worked all summer on it. I think it adds something to college."
Besides winning the event with a career-high 9.925 score, Pechanec also was third on the balance beam (9.825) and floor exercise (9.90).
Overall, Stanford gymnasts established or tied nine collegiate career bests. One was freshman Shona Morgan.
The 2008 Australian Olympian had been limited by injury, but scored a 9.925 on the floor to tie Ashley Morgan, the national leader, who hit that score for the fourth consecutive meet. Shona earlier tied teammate Alyssa Brown to win the balance beam with a 9.85 score. Not a bad debut.
"Her artistry and her charisma on floor just separate her," Smyth said. "You can see how spectacular she is and is going to be over her time here. She just has special qualities."
Morgan has been limited since aggravating an old knee injury during fall practice, but since has made great progress.
"I'm almost 100 percent," Morgan said. "We're still looking out for my knees, making sure I don't overdo stuff. I'm not fully there, but I'm almost there."
She didn't get her choreography down until after Christmas and didn't start tumbling until about a month ago.
"Right now we're doing a watered down tumbling routine," Smyth said. "I think we'll make changes as the season progresses as she gets stronger and more confident in her work."
But to score a 9.925 with a watered-down routine? Now, it's easy to see why Smyth and her gymnasts are so excited about this season.
And just look at what Ashley Morgan continues to do. For the fourth consecutive meet, Morgan scored a 9.925 on the floor, undoubtedly maintaining a season average that will continue to lead the nation.
Stanford gymnasts, in fact, won every event, and those didn't include sophomore Nicole Dayton, who set career bests on the bars (9.80) and floor (9.85).
Stanford improved to 44-1-1 at Burnham Pavilion since 1998. The Cardinal next takes on Pac-10 rivals UCLA and Oregon State at the IGI Chicago Style Invitational on Friday at Chicago's Navy Pier, and then heads to Ann Arbor, Mich., for a tri-meet with Michigan and Nebraska on Sunday.
Final score: Stanford 196.975, San Jose State 193.825.
Vault (winner and Stanford): 1, Allyse Ishino (Stanford) 9.900. Other Stanford: Alyssa Brown 9.875, Shelley Alexander 9.850, Ashley Morgan 9.825, Danielle Ikoma 9.775, Nicole Dayton 9.725. Team: Stanford 49.225, San Jose State 48.650.
Uneven Bars (Winner and Stanford): 1, Nicole Pechanec (Stanford) 9.925. Other Stanford: Alyssa Brown 9.850, Ashley Morgan 9.800, Nicole Dayton 9.800, Kristina Vaculik 9.775, Allyse Ishino 9.725. Team: Stanford 49.150, San Jose State 48.700.
Balance Beam (Winners and Stanford): 1 (tie), Alyssa Brown (Stanford) and Shona Morgan (Stanford), each 9.850. Other Stanford: Nicole Pechanec 9.825, Danielle Ikoma 9.825, Kristina Vaculik 9.800, Ashley Morgan 9.775. Team: Stanford 49.150, San Jose State 47.475.
Floor Exercise (Winners and Stanford): 1 (tie), Ashley Morgan (Stanford) and Shona Morgan (Stanford), each 9.925. Other Stanford: Nicole Pechanec 9.900, Shelley Alexander 9.850, Nicole Dayton 9.850, Kristina Vaculik 9.825. Team: Stanford 49.450, San Jose State 49.000.
All-Around (Winner): 1, Ashley Morgan (Stanford) 39.325.
Records: Stanford 9-0, San Jose State 6-2.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics