Both Cardinal gymnastics teams kicked off their 2012 campaigns this past weekend, with the women hosting the NorCal Quad Meet and the men beginning their national title defense at California. The women emerged with a solid performance and a victory, while the men dropped their first test of the season.
On Sunday afternoon, the Stanford women’s gymnastics team opened its season at the NorCal Quad Meet, hosting UC-Davis, San Jose State and Sacramento State. The preseason No. 8 squad, the Cardinal returns eight gymnasts from last year’s team–although two were sidelined this past weekend with injuries–and brings in a strong recruiting class of five freshmen. But the team is led by upperclassmen Nicole Pechanec and Ashley Morgan, both of whom did not disappoint on Sunday.
Pechanec, a senior who earned All-Pac-10 Second Team honors on the floor exercise last season, participated in the uneven bars, vault and balance beam. She was one of five Cardinal gymnasts to compete in at least three events, along with Morgan, fellow junior Nicole Dayton and freshmen Pauline Hanset and Rebecca Wing. Using her own invented move, the “Pechancova,” Pechanec earned a 9.900 on the uneven bars to lead the field in that event. In addition, she and Dayton tied to win the vault with scores of 9.825.
Morgan also earned All-Pac-10 honors on the floor, joining the first team on the floor. She was the only Cardinal gymnast to compete in all four events on Sunday, finishing second overall behind Thomasina Wallace of San Jose State by a margin of just .075 points. Morgan’s 9.900 on the floor, her fifth consecutive 9.900 in that event, tied her with Pechanec for the best score on the afternoon.
The Cardinal also got a big boost from Hanset, who was making her collegiate debut. Never earning below a 9.750 on any of her three events, Hanset scored a 9.850 on the floor, second only to Morgan.
Stanford earned a total score of 194.900, followed by San Jose State (194.300), Sacramento State (191.575) and UC-Davis (190.775). The Cardinal won every event as a team on the afternoon aside from the floor, in which they placed second to San Jose State. However, Stanford never trailed in the meet, as its opening vault score was the highest in the first round.
On Sunday, the Cardinal hosts Washington at Burnham Pavilion in the second of the team’s three home meets during the 2012 season.
The Stanford men’s gymnastics team looked to open its defense of last year’s national championship on Friday against California. Following six consecutive top-three finishes at the NCAA team championships and a national title in two of the past three years, the team looked to continue its success this season despite losing five All-Americans from last year. However, the preseason No. 4 Cardinal suffered a tough loss to the No. 5 Bears to kick off its season.
The meet was a back-and-forth affair between the Cardinal and Bears until the past few events. After Cal got off to a 2.800-point lead after the first round (where the Bears put up a score of 57.500 on the floor exercise and the Cardinal scored a 54.700 on the pommel horse), Stanford narrowed the deficit with its impressive performance on the floor in the second round. Led by redshirt sophomore Paul Hichwa’s 15.000, the Cardinal posted a 58.300 to cut Cal’s lead to just .300 points.
After the rings and vault, Stanford took a 227.400 to 226.600 lead over Cal, due in large part to redshirt freshman Sean Senters’ 15.200 in vault, the high score among all events for the team. However, Cal came back in the final two events to ultimately win the meet 340.900 to 334.800.
Stanford received strong performances from junior Eddie Penev and freshman Brian Knott, who were the only two Cardinal gymnasts to compete in all six events. Penev finished first all-around and Knott finished third. The squad, which only has 13 of the 15 allowed gymnasts, may have been hurt by its depth in the meet’s later stages.
Stanford’s next meet will be on Saturday as it looks to get even with the Golden Bears in a rematch at Burnham Pavilion.