STANFORD, Calif. – Recent Stanford graduates and women’s gymnasts Ashley Morgan and Nicole Dayton had an eventful final week of school filled with senior events, the Stanford Athletic Board luncheon and Commencement.
The senior duo and team co-captains completed impressive collegiate careers in 2013 by helping lead Stanford to its sixth NCAA Championships appearance in the past seven seasons. The pair recorded a 92-40-1 overall record and made two trips to the Super Six (2010, 2012) during their four years on The Farm. Morgan and Dayton helped Stanford continue to be a force in the Pac-12, compiling a 45-17 regular season record against conference opponents.
Dayton completed her collegiate career with seven vault victories – including four in her senior season. Morgan finished with a staggering 22 floor exercise victories, as well as eight wins in the all-around, four on balance beam and three apiece on vault and uneven bars. Morgan won or shared the Pac-12 floor title each of the past three seasons – extending Stanford’s streak of conference floor championships to five.
Both Morgan (product design – engineering) and Dayton (human biology – child and adolescent development focus) received Pac-12 postgraduate scholarships and will continue their studies after returning to Stanford in the fall to complete their undergraduate degree requirements.
Morgan and Dayton took some time to discuss their time at Stanford, the Commencement ceremony and what’s in store for each of them in the future.
Q: How was graduation? What was it like walking into Stanford Stadium for the final time as an undergraduate with your classmates?
Nicole: Graduation was a blast! All of the activities leading up to commencement were amazing. It was really fun to see old dorm mates and other friends celebrating together. Stanford puts so much time and heart into making the weeks leading up to Commencement, and the actual event, memorable for everyone involved.
Ashley: Graduation was very special. Stanford really did an amazing job capturing the spirit of Stanford University and showing all who attended how unique our program is and how special our four-year experience is on The Farm.
Q: As you reflect on the past four years, what is one athletic and one academic moment that stands out as an important or memorable moment?
Nicole: It's really hard for me to pick just one moment that stands out from my whole career because everything we do as a team is the culmination of tons of small moments. Looking back though, I am so thankful of all the struggles that I faced in my four years here. Through each setback or disappointment, I feel I learned a valuable lesson that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. The triumphs and "shining moments" are wonderful ones to look back on as the product of hard work and dedication, but when I remember those times that were difficult for me, I realize how much I've learned and how much I've grown since getting to The Farm.
It's really incredible to have had this kind of experience. I can't thank everyone who has supported me enough for their role in getting me to where I am: my parents, coaches, teammates, support staff and friends. I've met so many truly incredible people since being here. It's so humbling.
Ashley: One academic moment would have to be the moment I fell in love with my major. Like most undergraduates I was deciding between a couple of my interests before officially declaring. I was in my Mechanical Engineering 115A class – the first of a series in the product design core curriculum – and the way my professor captivated the entire room sticks out in my mind. He spoke so passionately about creative thinking, design, and affecting others, and I felt as though his lecture perfectly described all of the things I wanted to pursue since I was young. It was a special moment when I realized I had found another passion of mine inside the classroom.
On the gymnastics side of things, I probably have shared this moment before, but it truly was a moment that will forever be a lasting memory. In my first collegiate competition in Georgia, I felt what it meant to be a part of a team – and specifically a part of a team as special as Stanford women's gymnastics. When I hit my final routine of the night, on our last event, what felt like a millisecond from the time I saluted, my team was there screaming, lifting me up and hugging me.
Q: What are your plans now?
Nicole: Next year, I will be finishing up classes in the fall and applying to post-baccalaureate pre-med programs. This is basically a fast track intensive program in which you complete your pre-med requirements in about a year and half. I plan to attend this program in fall of 2014 and then go onto medical school from there.
Ashley: My plans now are to return to Stanford to complete a fifth year and finish up my undergraduate degree in product design. I'm really excited to spend another year in a place that I love and support Stanford women's gymnastics as an alumna!
Q: The Stanford Athletic Board luncheon featured a wealth of talented Stanford student-athletes, what has it been like to be part of such a successful and elite group of student-athletes, and to be honored at such an event?
Nicole: The Athletic Board luncheon is a really special event. It was such an honor to be invited and recognized next to all the unbelievable athletes in the room. I feel so blessed to have been able to be there and celebrate another incredible year in Stanford Athletics (19 Directors’ Cups in a row and the NCAA championship streak continuation!).
The event is such a great tribute to what student-athletes do outside of their sport. Each time someone was called up to the stage, I found myself thinking "They did this, and that, and excelled in their sport? Wow, I am so lucky to be surrounded by such amazing people, students and athletes every day." Being at a place like Stanford, you meet the most inspiring people, and that's how I felt at that luncheon; inspired by everyone in that room.
Ashley: It was a very surreal and humbling experience. It was truly special to hear other seniors share their stories and Stanford experiences. Just to be in the room with such amazing and talented student-athletes who succeed not only within their sport, but also in the classroom, was very inspiring.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add about your time here at Stanford or what you hope to accomplish in the future?
Nicole: Just that I couldn't be happier with the decision I made to attend this university. It truly is the best combination of athletics and academics you will find. There's something special about Stanford Athletics. Athletes here go out and compete with their hearts and a chip on their shoulder. No matter how many doubters we have, we're going to fight to prove them wrong and have fun while doing that. When you are a part of a department like this, you walk away with so many assets that prepare you for life, and you'll never forget the experiences you've had.
Ashley: I look forward to the future and using the lessons I have learned at Stanford to inspire others, and give back to the university that has given me so much, and which I have been lucky enough to call home for the past four years.