Oct. 29, 2008
STANFORD, Calif. - Kristen Smyth received the ultimate honor from her alma mater last weekend, becoming the first gymnast to be inducted into the University of California Athletic Hall of Fame.
Smyth, in her eighth season as Stanford's women's gymnastics coach, was among a class of six that was honored during a ceremony in Berkeley on Friday and then recognized at halftime of the Golden Bears' football game against UCLA a day later.
In its profile of Smyth, calbears.com described her as "the greatest women's gymnast in Cal history." She was a three-time All-America during her years at Cal from 1989-92, earning first-team honors on the vault in 1992, and second-team honors on floor and all-around.
In addition, Smyth was a three-time Academic All-America and led Cal to an eighth-place national finish in 1992, the highest in school history. In recalling her collegiate career, Smyth described the closeness of her six-member freshman class that became the heart of that '92 team.
Smyth arrived at Cal from Maryknoll School in Honolulu, where she lived during her high school years after moving often as part of a military family. She and the other five gymnasts in her class bonded immediately and Smyth saw how valuable the team aspect was to college gymnastics. Smyth has made the creation of a family atmosphere one of her priorities at Stanford.
"We had great team chemistry and we were tremendously committed and passionate about the sport," Smyth said.
She qualified for nationals as an individual in 1991, but saw far more value in the fact that her entire team advanced - the first time Cal reached nationals in school history - during Smyth's senior year.
Smyth said the experience has helped shape her coaching philosophy to this day.