Feb. 15, 2006
Stanford, Ca - Spend an hour with Stanford freshmen Kelly Fee, Nicole Ourada and Heather Purnell, and time flies quickly. This energetic and personable group has made an immediate impact on the nationally-ranked Cardinal this year, both in competition and in the classroom. This group has quickly become great friends, and the future bodes well for this trio as Stanford continues its ever growing tradition in women's gymnastics.
Recently, Fee, Ourada and Purnell sat down at the Arrillaga Family Sports Center and discussed a wide range of topics. There stories are interesting.
Kelly Fee, Freshman, St. Charles, Il
Kelly Fee hails from St. Charles, Illinois, a small city not to much different than downtown Palo Alto, according to Fee. The only difference might be the winters. St. Charles is 45 miles east of Chicago, and the cold, winter weather can easily cut through a person despite many layers of clothing.
"I recently talked with my mom, and she told me about a storm coming into their area, and I said, 'hey mom, I'm wearing a t-shirt with the nice weather here in Palo Alto."
"Fee is fire plug, a spark - the energy that fires up the team," according to head coach Kristen Smyth. Maybe that competitive spirit was partly developed because of the atmosphere she enjoyed while growing up near Chicago, home of the Cubs, the Bears, and of course the world champion White Sox. "Of course, I'm a White Sox fans, they are world champions," said Fee, who then quickly admits that she is also a huge Cubs fans. Fee's real love is the NFL's Chicago Bears. Her dad is a hugely devoted Bears fans, and many times, Fee has watched the Bears at a cold, snowy, windy Soldier Field.
"It's terrible when they lose," said Fee, whose Bears enjoyed a surprisingly winning record this year. "Sometimes I get a little upset when they don't win. You say to yourself, "great, I went to the game in the bitter cold for no reason. They didn't win."
Despite moving nearly 2,000 miles to attend Stanford University, her dad gave her one bit of advice. "He said, when you get out to California, you better not become a 49ers fans. 'Don't worry dad, the Bears all the way.'"
Fee started her gymnastics career at age three. Fee readily admits that she was terrible. In fact, her coach told her to quit. But in talking with Fee, you quickly sense that this an athlete who has a determined fire to accept a challenge and win.
"I never get bored with the sport of gymnastics," said Fee, who is considering a major in Public Policy or Political Science. "The best thing about gymnastics is the fact that just when you think you are getting good, you have so much more to learn, and then when you learn something new, it is so much fun."
Every since her sophomore season at St. Charles High School, Fee has always wanted to attend Stanford University. Her current teammate, Liz Tricase (Itasca, Il), originally got Fee interested in Stanford. A recruiting trip to Stanford then helped seal the deal.
"The first time I talked with Kristen (head coach Kristen Smyth) I knew that I wanted her to be my coach," said Fee. "I thought she was an amazing person, and she has been more than that. I love all the coaches and of course the academics."
In every successful story, many people play a major role. For Fee, her heroes include her older sister, Colleen, who is a musical theatre major at Syracuse University.
"Colleen has always had the roughest time, but when she wants something she gets it," said Fee. "She works very hard to get it done. She has been really important to me."
Fee has already emerged as one of Stanford's top gymnasts this year. Fee has competed in the All-Around in two of the five meets, and her mark of 9.737 on Beam is among the Pac-10 leaders in 2006.
Kelly Fee File
The athlete I admire most: Lance Armstrong
Since coming to Stanford I have learned: the legacy of Stanford
University. This university has an impact on so many people.
Best Book I have Ever Read: The Bible
Favorite Food: Calamari
Least favorite food: baby corn on the cob (salads)
Favorite Movie: Moulin Rouge; Schindler's List
Favorite TV Show: Desperate Houswives/Grey's Anatomy
Favorite Actress: Natalie Portman or Nicole Kidman
Favorite Actor: Johnny Depp
If a movie was made of my life, I would have the following actress play me: Natalie Portman
My ultimate Sportscenter highlight would be: watching us win Nationals and all three (freshman) of us tie for first in the All-Around.
If I were not competing in college gymnastics, I would be: in the Stanford Improv and involved in student government
I would like to switch places for a day with: the head of the CIA If I had one CD to listen to, it would be: any mix by my friend, Caroline
One wish I would make for the 21st century: a replacement for gasoline
Nicole Ourada, Freshman, Germantown, Wi
Germantown, Wisconsin, is a suburb of Milwaukee and that is where Nicole Ourada got her start in gymnastics. Even at age three, gymnastics coaches can sense that a young child has the potential to be successful in a such a demanding sport. Ourada had that potential.
"Someone told my parents to enroll me in a gymnastics club which meant I had potential," said Ourada, who is a considering a major in Human Biology. "At that young age, gymnastics is more like hanging from the bars, walking across the beam or tumbling. You can actually tell if someone has the potential in gymnastics at age three by the fact that they are not scared, and the way they hang and swing on the bars."
Ourada also developed into an excellent tennis player growing up, but gymnastics has taken center stage. Ourada was a member of the 2005 Junior Olympic National team, and has enjoyed an outstanding freshman season at Stanford. Her average All-Around score of 39.0.15 ranks fourth in the Pac-10 while she also ranks in the Top 10 in the conference on Floor Exercise (9.810, #10 nationally) and seventh on Beam (9.720).
"Nicole is focused, hard working and efficient," said head coach Kristen Smyth. "She has complete control of her program."
Like her freshman teammates, Ourada has many heroes that have helped her succeed. One group is special, according to Ourada.
"My heroes are the other gymnasts on the team," said Ourada. "I look up to them, and admire what they have accomplished through their hard work. That is the reason I am here. The recruiting trip convinced me to come to Stanford. I really like the girls on the team and the academics."
Nicole Ourada File
The athlete I admire most: Nadia Comaneci
Since coming to Stanford I have learned: that you stay very busy
Best Book I have Ever Read: The Notebook
Favorite Food: Lasagna
Least Favorite food: Chinese
Favorite Movie: Wedding Crashers
Favorite TV Show: Desperate Housewives/Grey's Anatomy
Favorite Actor: Matthew McConaughey
Favorite Actress: Julia Roberts
If a movie was made of my life, I would have the following actress play me: Kate Hudson
My ultimate Sportscenter highlight would be: watching Stanford win Nationals
If I were not competing in college gymnastics, I would be: playing tennis
If I could invite any three people in history to dinner, they would be: George Washington, Oprah Winfrey, Eva Longoria
I would like to switch places for a day with: President Bush
If I had CD to listen to, it would be: Keith Urban
If I won one million dollars, I would: spread it all around including charities
One wish I would make for the 21st century: an inexpensive energy source that is totally reusable
Heather Purnell, Metcalfe, Ontario, Canada
It's easy to see where Heather Purnell picked up her athletic talents; her parents. Her father played professional football in the Canadian Football League, while her mom played professional golf and squash. Hockey, of course, is the #1 sport in Canada, but Heather had other ideas. Growing up in Metcalfe (population 500), Purnell tried other sports, but gymnastics kept coming into focus.
"I tried to play soccer, but ended up doing cart wheels over the ball," laughed Purnell. "Then I tried figure skating, and again I tried to do cart wheels on the ice."
That led to a decision to try the sport of gymnastics. The decision was the right one. While growing up in Metcalfe, Purnell attended school and trained in Ottawa, 30 miles from Metcalfe. Her talents skyrocketed her to international elite status, and a berth as team captain on the 2004 Canadian Olympic team.
"Being there in the Olympic Village was amazing," said Purnell, who one day had lunch with Chinese basketball player and NBA All-Star Yao Ming. "When I was competing, it seemed like a normal competition, but when I was watching the finals in the All-Around, I said to myself, 'Oh my gosh, I'm at the Olympics. It was amazing to see all the people there and to be with other amazing gymnasts who you had only seen on TV until now."
Purnell was highly recruited out of high school, and she is happy with her decision to be on The Farm. "It was totally the right decision to attend Stanford."
Heather's sister, Ashley, is one of Stanford's top sprinters, while her stepbrother, Chris Hyndman, works in television on two nationally syndicated shows on cable television, one of which is Design Rivals. That show is seen on the Home Garden Television (HGTV).
"I see that show on airplanes all the time," said Purnell which brings a hearty laugh from the other freshmen.
Purnell has been slowed by injuries this year, but recently made her 2006 freshman debut on Bars and Beam.
"Heather has a maturity well beyond her years and great self confidence," said head coach Kristen Smyth. "It is no surprise that she was the captain of the 2004 Canadian Olympic team."
Purnell not only wants to make an impact on the future success of Stanford gymnastics, but in later years possibly pursue a career with Cirque du Soleil. "I would like to travel with a touring show for a couple years, and then get back into the real world."
No doubt, Heather will succeed.
Heather Purnell File
The athlete I admire most: Kate Richardson (UCLA gymnast, two-time Canadian Olympian)
Since coming to Stanford I have learned: there are many types of people in the world
Best Book I have ever read: Harry Potter's The Globlet of Fire
Favorite Food: frozen yogurt
Least Favorite Food - olives
Favorite TV Show - Gilmore Girls
Favorite Actress - Angelina Jolie
Favorite Actor - Johnny Depp
If a movie was made of my life, I would have the following actress play me: Kelly Fee
My ultimate Sportscenter highlight would be: SWG winning Nationals If I were not competing in college gymnastics, I would be: a dancer
If I could invite three people in history to dinner, they would: Harry Potter, my sister (Ashley), Howard Hughes
I would like to switch places for a day with: anything I flies; an eagle
If I had one CD to listen to, it would be: a mix of country music, James Blunt and Everlast
One wish I would make for the 21st century: world peace