Gymnastics: Men, women head in opposite directions over weekend

(Stanford Daily File Photo)

The Stanford men’s and women’s gymnastics teams both took to the mats this weekend, with the men at home, squaring off against rival California and the Japanese Collegiate All-Stars, and the women in Texas, facing Brown and the University of Bridgeport. The women won their second meet in a row and recorded multiple team- and personal-best scores, while the men’s team continued to struggle, finishing third.

 

The No. 12 women’s team looked to continue its recent momentum as it traveled to Texas for its meet with the University of Bridgeport (8-4) and Brown (2-6) last Saturday. The Cardinal (7-2) ran away with the Metroplex Challenge victory, scoring a total of 196.375, the team’s second-best score of the season, followed by Bridgeport (193.600) and Brown (191.725).

 

The meet was the fourth of five straight road competitions for the Cardinal. Despite experiencing struggles away from home earlier in the season, head coach Kristen Smyth said that the team has improved with each meet and “has really come together as a group.” She explained that the team’s strategy for the season was to start slower in order to protect the athletes from injuries and to gear up for the playoffs (the Pac-12 tournament occurs in late march, and the NCAA championships are in April). Saturday’s meet, however, was far from slow, with strong individual performances in a variety of events allowing the Cardinal to coast to victory.

 

Junior Ashley Morgan won two events for the Stanford team, which won three of the four events on the afternoon. She scored a 9.875 to win the uneven bars event, but was even more impressive on the floor exercise, scoring a season-best 9.925 to earn a tie for victory in the event. Morgan struggled on the balance beam, putting up her season-worst performance with an 8.675, but still finished second in the all-around competition.

 

Matching Morgan’s floor exercise score was senior Nicole Pechanec, whose 9.925 was also a season-best. Prior to Saturday’s meet, the Cardinal had posted just two 9.925 scores on the whole season in any event–Pechanec on uneven bars against Cal and senior Alyssa Brown on beam against Oregon State–but the squad put up three 9.925s in Saturday’s competition alone.

 

Sophomores Shona Morgan, a 2008 Olympian, and Amanda Spinner also had career days. Shona Morgan tied with Pechanec and Ashley Morgan for the leading score of the day, a career-best 9.925 to win the beam event. Spinner also scored a personal best on the beam, with a 9.800 in only her second collegiate performance.

 

Saturday’s meet was a day of new benchmarks, as the Cardinal was ultimately able to rack up two career-best and five season-best scores (one of these tied a previous season best) by the end of the competition. The strong individual performances combined to help Stanford score season-best team scores on both floor exercise (49.275) and beam (49.175).

 

The Cardinal looks to extend its current win streak as the team takes on top-ranked Utah this Friday. While Utah is one of the nation’s powerhouse gymnastics teams, Smyth feels good about her team’s chances, noting that the Card “has a lot of momentum and [its] confidence is growing.” Last season, Stanford took down the then-No. 4 Utes in a thrilling meet, ending Utah’s streak of 20 straight regular-season home victories.

 

Stanford will look for a similar result this year as it faces the Utes on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. in Salt Lake City, Utah.

 

A shorthanded Stanford men’s gymnastics team faced Cal for the fifth time in five meets to open the 2012 season. Coming into Saturday’s meet, the series was tied at 2-2, with the Golden Bears winning the first and fourth meetings and the Cardinal taking the second and third, and both squads looking to emerge with a victory in the fifth and final matchup of the season. While rival Cal was a main priority for Stanford, the team also faced the Japanese Collegiate All-Stars, the Card’s first and only international opponent of the season.

 

The Japanese All-Stars established their dominance early on in the competition, but Stanford and Cal stayed neck and neck for the entire meet. Ultimately, the last event decided the final outcome for the afternoon, with Cal outlasting Stanford 344.900-343.600, while the Japanese All-Stars put up a 354.700 to easily take first place.

 

Junior Eddie Penev, who was named NCAA Player of the Week earlier in the season, took the meet off to rest, as he had competed in every single event in each meet leading up to Saturday. The team was also missing freshman Brian Knott, who recently underwent surgery for a torn bicep. Without Penev and Knott, the team had no gymnast compete in the all-around competition. However, despite its lack of manpower, the Cardinal nearly matched its score from last week, when team-leading Penev was competing.

 

Freshman Sean Senters was crucial in making up for the team’s lost gymnasts, as he set season-high scores in both floor (14.900) and vault (15.500), with his vault result tying Penev’s for the nation’s best vault score this season.

 

The Cardinal also captured the individual title in the pommel horse, with junior John Martin finishing first with a 15.300 and junior Gabriel Alvarado taking second with a career-best 15.200.

 

The Cardinal trailed the Bears by 0.700 points going into the final round, but Cal was able to pull away on the high bar to win the event and seal the season-series victory in the teams’ last regular-season meeting.

 

Stanford next takes on Michigan at home on Sunday at 2 p.m. in Burnham Pavilion.