Jan. 4, 2006
Stanford, Ca - The Stanford women's gymnastics team, ranked ninth in the pre-season, opens the 2006 season in Mexico at the Cancun Classic on Friday, January 6, at 7 p.m. (ct). The meet will take place at the Moon Palace Resort and will feature, in addition to Stanford, top-ranked and defending NCAA champion Georgia, #10 Oklahoma, #17 Arizona and #21 Denver.
The Cardinal of 2006 is a group with great potential. Stanford returns all of their starters and adds three oustanding freshmen (Kelly Fee, Nicole Ourada and Heather Purnell). This gives the program more depth and greater talent than the team has had in past years.
"The team has put in the work, brought a consistent effort and maintained a great attitude in practice during the pre-season," according to Kristen Smyth, who is entering her fifth season as head coach of the Cardinal. "I am confident their hard work will pay off as the competition season approaches. This is also an upbeat team with great energy and it should be an exciting group to watch.
Natalie Foley is a two-time first team All-American in the All-Around, an eight-time All-American, a three-time All Pac-10 All-Around performer, and one of the nation's best collegiate gymnasts. An early season injury slowed her through most of last year, but she is healthy again and is expected to compete for top honors at the conference, regional and NCAA championship levels. Two years ago Foley tallied a 39.40 in the All-Around at the NCAA Super Six, including a 9.90 on the Vault. Foley also captured the Pac-10 All-Around title with a career-best 39.80 to become the first Stanford gymnast ever to earn that honor.
Tabitha Yim, one of the top All-Around competitors in the United States and a top athlete at the 2004 Olympic Team Trials, became a first team All-American in the All-Around at the 2005 NCAA Championship. Yim competed in the All-Around event only once prior to that meet, recording a team-high 39.25 at the NCAA West Regional Championship. That performance earned her an individual spot at the NCAA's where she finished as the top scoring All-Around performer among the at-large individual competitors. A remarkable 39.45 was the highest All-Around score posted by a Cardinal gymnast all last season. After earning four first team All-America honors by virtue of her performances on Bars, Beam, Floor Exerise and the All-Around, Yim continued to impress in the NCAA Event finals. Her 9.925 score resulted in a third place finish on Floor Exercise for the then freshmen, in addition to a sixth place finish on Bars with a 9.875 and seventh place finish on Beam with a 9.837.
Another great All-Arounder to watch this season is Liz Tricase, who was a top performer at the 2004 United States Olympic Team Trials. Liz' explosive style has always made her a crowd favorite and if she stays healthy she will be one of the top gymnasts in the country in 2006.
Stanford is going to be a stronger and more experienced team on Vault this year. Natalie Foley not only won the Pac-10 championship and the NCAA Central Regional on Vault in 2004, but proceeded to gain All-American honors with a 9.90. Tabitha Yim posted a season-best 9.75 at the NCAA West Regional and has looked strong in pre-season workouts. Senior Glyn Sweets, a second team All-American on Vault in 2003, and senior Jessica Louie are powerful vaulters as well and will vie for a spot in the starting lineup for the Cardinal. Sophomore Liz Tricase showed she was another of the top vaulters in the country in 2005 after posting a score of 9.90 against Pac-10 rivals Oregon State and UCLA. Another top competitor in the Vault is sophomore Stephanie Gentry, who displays impeccable form and execution. Gentry recorded a season-best 9.85 on two occasions in 2005. Three outstanding freshmen join an already strong Vault contingent. Look for Kelly Fee, Nicole Ourada and Heather Purnell (the 2004 Canadian Olympic Team Captain) to all compete regularly on Vault.
This is an event where Stanford can separate themselves by their artistry and unique skill selection, The Bar team is deep with 12 athletes vying for one of the six spots, making the choice of lineups a great challenge for the coaching staff. Tabitha Yim, Liz Tricase and Natalie Foley are three of the top Bar performers in the country. Yim, who is training a double pirouette into a Geinger, captured first team All-American honors at the NCAA Championship last year as a freshmen with a mark of 9.875. She showed even greater potential throughout the season (typlified by a 9.925 at San Jose State) and Yim finished second at the Pac-10 Championship. Tricase is known for her high flying releases while Yim is known for her releases and pirouette work. Tricase tallied a season-high 9.95 in two meets in 2005. Foley's strengths are her major releases and she is looking to upgrade her dismount this year. Foley, who finished fourth at the Pac-10 Championship last year with a season-best 9.85, is looking to repeat her All-American performance at the 2004 NCAA's. The Bar squad has quality depth and a variety of athletes capable of scoring greater than 9.8 returning, including seniors Glyn Sweets and Jessica Louie, junior Stacy Sprando and sophomores Lauren Elmore and Alex Pintchouk. As a group, they are seasoned, talented Bar workers. Adding to that list are freshmen Kelly Fee, Heather Purnell and Nicole Ourada. "Nicole is especially stunning on this event," said Smyth. "People are really going to be impressed with her skill selection; her routine has multiple releases and unique stalder work."
Head coach Kristen Smyth is nationally recognized for her excellent Beam squads and she is very excited about this team's potential on the "make or break" event. Tabitha Yim and Natalie Foley are two key gymnasts to watch becaue of their diffficulty, consistency, and competitive experience. Smyth knows well that this may be the event that requires the most mental toughness and it is always the event that separates the great teams from the good teams. Yim gained first team All-American honors last year with a score of 9.837 in the finals at the NCAA Championship. However, her best score of the 2005 campaign was a 9.925 at the NCAA prelims. Foley set a season-high best of 9.875 at the Pac-10 Championship last year and is a second team All-American on this event. Smyth again notes the major roles that the three outstanding freshmen will play in the team's success. Kelly Fee, Nicole Ourada and Heather Purnell as well as sophomore Lauren Elmore (a starter in 2005 as a freshman) are all highly talented athletes who will challenge for regular spots in a very competitive event. Elmore, who chalked up a season-best 9.90 last year at the NCAA West Regional to finish in third place, is recovering from a toe injury but hopes to be back by February. This is definitely an event where the athletes will have to compete hard to make the lineup that could include any of the aforementioned athletes as well as Stephanie Gentry, Alex Pintchouk, Stacy Sprando, Glyn Sweets, and Liz Tricase, all of whom are capable of scoring in the 9.8 range or better. Fans should look for high levels of difficulty throughout the lineup, including double back dismounts and triple series.
This is an event loaded with outstanding dancers and performers. Tabitha Yim, Liz Tricase, Natalie Foley, Stephanie Gentry, Alex Pintchouk, and Aimee Precourt plus the three freshmen (Kelly Fee, Heather Purnell, Nicole Ourada) should be an entertaining floor group to watch with some of the most difficult tumbling displayed by any team in the country, according to head coach Kristen Symth. Yim, a beautiful dancer, gained first team All-American honors as a freshman last year at the NCAA Championship. Yim's score of 9.925 in the finals earned her a third place medal in the event finals session. Tricase, one of the top floor performers in the country, posted a season-best mark of 9.900 on two occasions last season. Foley should be back to full strength this season and the senior displays a wonderful mix of tumbling and upbeat music, a trademark that made her a first team All-American on Floor Exercise in 2004. Gentry and Pintchouk are both stunning performers, according to Smyth. Both gained valuable experience competing on Floor during the 2005 season and Precourt will provide depth, having shown great potential on Floor Exercise as a freshman last season.
The 2006 schedule is the toughest the Cardinal has faced since head coach Kristen Smyth arrived on the Stanford campus five years ago. The season will begin in Cancun, Mexico (January 6) against NCAA champion Georgia, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Denver. The Cardinal also has back-to-back meets at Cal State Fullerton and UCLA, which according to Smyth, is great preparation for the post-season. Five days later the Cardinal heads south to Alabama to compete before a crowd of more than 10,000 fans agianst the powerful Crimson Tide. This will be a tremendous experience for a young Stanford team (six sophomores, three freshmen). "Alabama is a great place to compete," said Smyth. "The atmosphere should be fantastic as they have some of the largest and most appreciative crowds in the country." Along the way Stanford travels to Arizona State, and then twice to Oregon State before the NCAA National Championship in April, once for a dual meet in January and then for the Pac-10 Conference Championship in March. Those two trips will give the Cardinal an unusual number of opportunities to compete in that venue before the NCAA Championship is held there in April.
Another highlight of the 2006 schedule is the fact that Stanford will host the NCAA Regional Championship at Maples Pavilion in April. The $25m renovation of Maples Pavilion has allowed the University to now host such events as the West Regional and possibly the Nationals in the years ahead. It also gives the senior class of Natalie Foley, Jessica Louie and Glyn Sweets another opportunity to perform before the home crowd at the Regional Championship. "There is nothing more exciting than that ... to compete at home, in a spectacular venue like Maples Pavilion in front of friends and family," said head coach Kristen Smyth. This will also be the first time in school history that Stanford has hosted the NCAA Regional at Maples Pavilion.