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Ready for the Best
Courtesy: Stanford Athletics  
Release: 06/21/1999

February 4, 1999

Briefly: In its most impressive outing of the year, the Stanford women's gymnastics team (3-1) defeated Oregon State, 195.350-193.375, on Friday, January 29. Up next, the Cardinal, ranked eighth in the National Rankings, hosts #9 UCLA and #7 Penn State in the Chili's "Red Hot" Invitational on Friday, February 5th. The meet is scheduled to begin at 7:30 pm in Maples Pavilion.

Last Week: Stanford put on an amazing show in its home opener as it registered its highest score of the year on Friday. In thet meet, the Cardinal recorded 20 season-highs and had an individual place first in every event as it defeated Oregon State (195.350-193.375). After taking an early lead in the first rotation, the Cardinal clearly dominated in the next event as the team set a new school record on the uneven bars with a score of 49.475. The previous record of 49.325 was set at San Jose State on March 14 of last season. In the process of breaking the record, Stanford took the top four spots and senior Amy Murakami tied her own school record (9.975). With two events complete, Stanford held a lead of 1.300 points. Though the Cardinal lost part of the margin on the third event, the team was unwilling to give up the lead. In the final event, Stanford scored a season-high (49.325) on the floor exercise to preserve the victory. In fact, that score was just 0.150 points short of the school record in the floor exercise. The current record is 49.475, which was posted on February 2, 1997 against Arizona State and UC Santa Barbara.

Jumping Jenny: Sophomore Jenny Wilson had the best night of her career on Friday as she recorded four career-highs and tied another. With scores of 9.875, she registered new highs in the Bars and Floor, surpassing previous highs of 9.775 and 9.750, respectively. Meanwhile, she set a personal-best on the beam (9.875) and tied her high of 9.875 in the vault. With those record-breaking scores, Wilson went on to post a 38.875 in the All-Around, bettering her previous top-score (38.300) by over half a point. For her efforts, Wilson ended up claiming the Vault and All-Around titles for the evening.

Excellent Exaltacion: Another Stanford gymnast who has significantly contributed to the team is Jennifer Exaltacion. In her best event, the Balance Beam, Exaltacion has placed first in three of the four meets. Thus far, Exaltacion has the Stanford season-high in the that event (9.875) and has scored nothing lower than a 9.550. In fact, her 9.875 in the beam against California was Stanford's highest score on that event since the 1997 season.

Freshmen Phenoms: A big question for every team going into the season is "how well will the freshmen perform?" Four meets into this season, the Stanford coaching staff has been pleasantly surprised by the performances of two rookies, Kristin Jensen and Katy Herbert. A native of Easton, Pennsylvania, Jensen has been one of the most consistent performers on the Uneven Bars. In her three meets, she has scored nothing lower than a 9.750 on that event and registered a 9.925 against Oregon State (Jan .29), which resulted in a second place finish. The top all-around gymnast on the team, Herbert has competed on the all-around in all four meets. All total, she has taken first place in two of those meets, including the contest against Oregon State, when she scored a season-high in three of the events.

Upperclass Leadership: As with any successful team, the role of the upperclass gymnasts is very important. This past weekend, it was never more evident. In the win over Oregon State, juniors Sarah Harding and Kim Young joined seniors Tracey Kohl and Amy Murakami in leading the Cardinal to victory. In her lone event, the floor exercise, Harding scored a 9.925, which was good for first place. Young, a native of Colorado Springs, Colorado, scored season-highs in all three of her events, including the bars, where she scored a career-high of 9.825. Kohl is another gymnast who scored season-highs (Vault, Floor) against Oregon State. In fact, she finished second on the floor with a score of 9.900, which helped lead the Cardinal to its highest score of the year in that event. Lastly, Murakami had perhaps the finest performance of the weekend. She registered a score of 9.750 or higher in all three of her events However, her most impressive feat of the competition was that she tied her own school record on the unevern bars (9.975). As a result of her accomplishments, Muakami was named the Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week.

Scouting the Bruins: UCLA, ranked 10th in the National Rankings, enters Friday night's competition with a 6-2 record after defeating Washington, Maryland and UC Santa Barbara in a quad meet on Sunday, January 31. In those victories, junior Heidi Moneymaker paced the Bruins by winning the All-Around (39.250) and three other events. UCLA returns nine letter-winners from last year's squad that went 16-6 and finished fifth at the NCAA National Championships. The Bruins are led by Moneymaker, a 1999 All-American candidate. As a sophomore last season, she was the NCAA Champion in the Uneven Bars (9.950). During last year, UCLA beat Stanford 195.400-194.300 in the teams' only matchup. In that meet, Moneymaker finished second in the All-Around (39.375) and first in the Uneven Bars (9.900). Head Coach Valorie Kondos is in her ninth year at the helm for the Bruins and has a career coaching record of 162-37.

Scouting the Lady Lions: Penn State, ranked fifth in the National Rankings, enters Friday night's competition with a perfect 6-0 record after defeating Florida (196.750-193.500) in a meet on Saturday, January 30. In that victory, Missy Leopoldus paced the Lady Lions by scoring Penn State's first-ever perfect score on the balance beam. Last season, PSU went 9-5 and finished sixth at the NCAA National Championships. The Lady Lions are led by Ellen Casey, a 1999 All-American candidate. Last week, she won the All-Around (39.575) and tied for first in the Vault (9.900) and Floor Exercise (9.950). Head Coach Steve Shepard is in his seventh year at the helm for the Lady Lions and has a coaching record of 90-50.

Head Coach Mark Cook: At the helm of the Cardinal program is second-year head coach Mark Cook. In just one season on The Farm, Cook has transformed Stanford into one of the best gymnastics programs in the country. Last season, he led the Cardinal to the Pac-10 Title and an individual NCAA Title, both first-time accomplishments for the program. Previously one of the top assistant coaches in the nation, Cook came to Stanford from rival UCLA where he helped build the Bruins into a national championship team. During his three-year stint in Westwood, the Bruins improved each year. After finishing fourth at nationals his first year (1995), UCLA placed second in 1996, and in 1997 he helped direct the Bruins to their first-ever NCAA tilte. The 1996 West Region Assistant Coach-of-the-Year, Cook also helped lead the team to three consecutive West Region titles and two Pac-10 Conference championships. While at UCLA, Cook's duties included scouting, recruiting, strength development, training athletes and promoting gymnastics.


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