Jan. 5, 2007
Stanford, Ca - It takes time, patience, a lot of hard work and a game plan to build an outstanding women's gymnastics program of which people are proud. It has taken head coach Kristen Smyth and her coaching staff five years to establish Stanford University as one of the outstanding programs in the nation. As another year unfolds in 2007, the Stanford coaching staff looks proudly on a Cardinal roster that is filled with talented student-athletes who will keep Stanford among the top collegiate programs in the country. There is a palpable air of excitement about the possibilities that lie ahead for a team with great talent and an exceptional work ethic.
"From the day we returned to campus in the Fall we have practiced with a sense of urgency," said Smyth, who has chalked up an impressive 89-33-3 record as head coach of the Cardinal. "Our team is highly focused and motivated - we are hungry to compete together at an NCAA Championship. The last two seasons have strengthened our commitment to each other as well as reinforced the notion that hard work and mental toughness are the key ingredients to earning a spot at the NCAA Championships. We have started honing these skills as a group. While it is early to make any predictions, the gym has been jumping since day one."
Last year, the Cardinal was among the nation's top teams. The successful march through the 2006 season included a Pac-10 title for the second time in the last three years. The conference title was fueled by the first place efforts of returning letter winners Tabitha Yim in the All-Around and Beam, and Liz Tricase on Bars.
"One of the great characteristics of last year's team was their chemistry," said Smyth. "It was outstanding. This year I see the team chemistry starting to build but like everything else it takes time. It doesn't happen overnight. This team is close and as the season approaches, I sense this will be a strength of ours again."
The 2006 season, however, ended a bit short of the NCAA Championships with a third place finish at the West Regional. "We had a strong regular season but came up short at the Regional," said Smyth. "It was painful to finish the year that way but without a doubt it lights a fire under everybody, athletes and coaches included, to work and train with a different outcome in mind."
Nine Stanford gymnasts return from the 2006 Pac-10 championship team ready to challenge for a berth at the NCAA Championships in 2007. With the addition of five freshmen, the Cardinal roster is deep with 14 gymnasts.
"This is the largest team in Stanford history," said Smyth. "We should be at least 8-to-10 deep on every event. It is a testament to the recruiting efforts that both the staff and student-athletes have put in over the last five years. With 14 gymnasts on the team, we have a great opportunity to cycle our athletes and keep them healthy and strong throughout the season."
In two seasons at Stanford, junior Tabitha Yim has established herself as one of the top gymnasts in the United States. In those two seasons, Yim has captured seven All-American honors. Her list of accomplishments last year included Pac-10 titles in the All-Around and Beam. Yim continued her outstanding 2006 season with a victory in the All-Around and Bars, and a tied for first on Beam at the NCAA West Regional. Yim is a natural leader, and is one of the tri-captains on this year's team. Nicole Ourada, a sophomore, is also a team captain and considered one of the top All-Arounders in the country. Ourada was among a trio of outstanding All-Around competitors for Stanford last year and her work ethic is considered second to none. Sophomore Heather Purnell started off slow in 2006 due to an injury but proved by the end of the season that she could contend for an All-Around position. This season Purnell is looking stronger than ever and will be counted on to be a leader for the Cardinal on all four events. Standout freshmen Allyse Ishino and Carly Janiga should be top All-Around competitors for the Cardinal in 2007. Ishino will bring excitement to the arena every time she steps out on the floor for Stanford. She is a tremendous performer and lends international competitive experience to the program. Janiga is known for her light, quick athleticism and is a fierce competitor. Janiga and Ishino both competed at hte 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials and both won Junior Olympic national champion titles last year.
Tabitha Yim, Nicole Ourada, Liz Tricase, Alex Pintchouk, Stephanie Gentry and Heather Purnell return to headline a strong roster of performers on this event. Yim, an All Pac-10 performer on Vault, finished among the Top 8 competitors at the NCAA West Regional last year. Tricase helped the Cardinal win the Pac-10 title with a second place finish on Vault and was ranked as high as fourth nationally. Pintchouk is talented and powerful on Vault with the potential for high scores in 2007. Gentry, recognized for her outstanding execution, has had a productive preseason and should be a force on Vault as well. Freshman Blair Ryland is an excellent gymnast and dynamic vaulter who will provide important depth on this event. Also look for late season performances on Vault from sophomore Kelly Fee and freshmen Tenaya West and Stephanie Carter.
This could be Stanford's strongest event with the return of standout competitors from last year's team including Liz Tricase, Tabitha Yim, Nicole Ourada and Kelly Fee. "Assistant coach Chris Swircek has done a superb job preparing our bar team to be aggressive and confident," said head coach Kristen Smyth. "As a group we are loaded with difficulty, we perform unique skills and we swing well." Tricase, the third team captain, not only won the Pac-10 title last year on Bars but also led the nation for most of the 2006 season. Described as explosive and dynamic, Tricase attained a perfect 10.00 three times during the 2006 campaign. Yim also was ranked among the nation's best on Bars en route to her All-American season. Kelly Fee gained valuable experience as a freshman at the Pac-10 Championships and the NCAA West Regional last year and through hard work during the off-season will become a contender for All-American honors in 2007. Ourada, who finished second on Bars at the 2006 NCAA West Regional, provides All-American talent while Carly Janiga and Allyse Ishino will push for starting roles in 2007. Other solid performers that have made great strides in the off-season and will challenge for spots in the lineup as Lauren Elmore, Heather Purnell and Blair Ryland.
Tabitha Yim, Kelly Fee, Lauren Elmore and Nicole Ourada, four starters from last season's record breaking performance at the Pac-10 Championships, return as starters for the Cardinal on Beam. Yim was crowned Pac-10 champion on Beam last year, the fifth time in the last six seasons that a Stanford athlete has won the event. Yim tied for first on Beam at the NCAA West Regional last year and is ready to lead the beam team again this season. Fee, an aggressive and charismatic Beam performer, is poised and ready for an outstanding campaign in 2007. Elmore has emerged as a strong starter on Beam for Stanford after assuming the lead off role in 2005 and 2006. Known for her sharp, crisp style and mental toughness, Elmore finished among the Top 8 performers on Beam at the Pac-10 Championships last year and was third at the NCAA Regional in 2005. Heather Purnell, a 2004 Canadian Olympian, brings a wealth of experience, exudes self confidence and will be a major contributor on Beam this year. Also look for oustanding performances from Stephanie Gentry, who lends artistry and elegance to the Beam team, as as well as Carly Janiga and Allyse Ishino. In addition to a strong core, junior Aimee Precourt, Stephanie Carter and Tenaya West will provide valuable depth for the Cardinal on Beam.
Floor Exercise should definitely be a team strength in 2007. "The preseason has been so enjoyable because I have been able to choreograph for an amazing group of dancers and performers," said head coach Kristen Smyth. "In addition to doing a great job preparing our student-athletes on Vault and Floor, assistant coach Mike Lorenzen has arranged some of the most original and entertaining pieces of music we have had at Stanford. When you combine great music with first-class showmanship you give the audience a performance they will remember." Returning competitors include Tabitha Yim, Nicole Ourada, Kelly Fee, Liz Tricase, Alex Pintchouk, Heather Purnell, Lauren Elmore, Stephanie Gentry, and Aimee Precourt. Yim, the top performer and anchor on Floor, has gained All-American honors in this event the last two years with consecutive third place finishes. Ourada, an impressive tumbler, was ranked among the best in the nation last year and has added a piked full-in for 2007. Fee has an exciting new floor routine and should be a crowd favorite again this season. Tricase is the whole package, combining explosive tumbling with high energy dance and will look to join Floor later in the season. Pintchouk was a stable on Floor in 2006 and has classic lines and mature presentation. Elmore has proven to be a solid floor competitor for Stanford when healthy and hopes to also join the Floor lineup later this year. Gentry has the talent for a breakout year and remains among the most dazzling Floor performers in the nation. Precourt provided clutch performances in 2006, and looks to do the same in 2007 when she debuts her new upbeat routine to Queen. The freshmen are poised to enter the Floor mix as well. Allyse Ishino, an alternate on the U.S. Olympic team in 2004, is considerred a "show stopper" on Floor Exercise. Carly Janiga brings a combination of tumbling difficulty and crowd appeal. The other freshmen, Stephanie Carter, Tenaya West and Blair Ryland, have outstanding potential in this event, and should all see action in 2007.
No doubt, the 2007 season schedule is challenging, but that is exactly Coach Smyth's intent. Learning to compete, week-after-week, against the strongest competition in the country, will require physical and mental toughness, and allow the Cardinal to measure themselves throughout the season. Starting the season against defending NCAA champion Georgia in Athens; non-league meets against such national powers like Nebraska, Oklahoma and Iowa State; plus a tough Pac-10 schedule that includes home-and-away meets against UCLA will keep the team focused throughout the year. "To start the year at Georgia, against the defending national champions in front of 10,000 fans in Athens, will be exciting for this team," said head coach Kristen Smyth. "This will be a great way to measure where we are as a group." Stanford will also compete against a great UCLA team in a home-and-away series. "They will be hard fought competitions that I know will spark great fan interest. To begin the season on the road at Georgia and UCLA will be a test for us early. Nearly every team we face this season is a Top-10 team. This is the strongest schedule we have undetaken and it will provide lots of opportunities for the 2007 Stanford team to compete with the nation's elite."
Stanford is ranked eighth in the GymInfo Pre-Season Coaches Poll ... Georgia, the two-time defending NCAA champion, is ranked #1 followed by Utah, Florida, Alabama, UCLA, Michigan, Nebraska, Stanford, LSU and Oklahoma ... Other Pac-10 taems rankes in the Top 25 are Arizona State (#11), Oregon State (#12) and Arizona (#16) ... Stanford begins the 2007 season on Saturday (1/6/07) at Georgia ... The meet is slated to begin at 4 p.m. (et) ... A crowd of 10,224 is expected at Stegeman Coliseum ... In 2003, Stanford and Georgia tied for first place at the NCAA North Central Regional in Denver with scores of 196.125 ... Allyse Ishino, one of the top gymnasts in the United States and a freshman at Stanford University, has been sidelined after recently being diagnosed with having two pulmonary emboli (blood clots in her lungs), according to Cardinal head coach Kristen Smyth ... Ishino, who was one of the nation's top recruits as a high school senior last year at Foothill High School (Santa Ana, Calif), was expected to be a major contributor to the success of the nationally-ranked Stanford team in 2007. Ishino has not been able to train thus far.