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Stanford women’s gymnastics barely beat by Utah

After falling to Utah by 0.200 points last year in the regular season, the Stanford women’s gymnastics team avenged their loss when it mattered most, finishing just ahead of the Utes in the NCAA Championships to win fourth place. So when the Cardinal traveled to Utah for Saturday’s meet, both teams had motivation to try to come away with a win in front of the crowd of over 13,000.

[Mike Kheir/The Stanford Daily]

Junior Amanda Spinner (above) scored a career-high of 9.950 on Saturday. [Mike Kheir/The Stanford Daily]

Heading into the meet, Stanford knew it had a difficult job ahead, as Utah has been one of the nation’s best teams over the past few years. Senior captain Ashley Morgan, coming off a career-best performance last week, was “extremely confident” in her team as long as it performed up to its potential. The team fell just short of that, posting its second-best score of the season, as Utah earned the victory 197.300-197.075. It’s the second time in two weeks that Stanford has scored in the 197s, which it hadn’t done all season before last week.

Starting off on uneven bars, the Card was led by Morgan’s 9.875, which was good enough to earn her another individual title to add to her many from this season. However, after a very unusual miss from sophomore Samantha Shapiro, who finished second in the country in last year’s NCAA Championship in uneven bars, Stanford looked to sophomore Alex Archer to help get back on track. Archer not only kept the team in the meet with her performance, but also tied her career-high in the event with a 9.825.

That was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my career,” said Archer. “It felt unbelievable. Being on a team of 15 strong, nothing can truly describe the feeling of having each other’s backs.”

The Cardinal came away with a 49.050 score in the event, while the Utes were nearly perfect on vault, posting a 49.500 to give them an early cushion.

Stanford had a lot of work to do to make up its deficit, and its strong vault performance would be a good first step. Stanford scored a 49.325, led by senior captain Nicole Dayton, who tied her career-high in the event with a 9.950. Her score was good to tie Utah’s Tory Wilson for the individual title in the event. Dayton was supported by Morgan and sophomore Pauline Hanset, each of whom scored a 9.875 in the event (Hanset tied her career-high in the event with that score). Stanford’s 49.325 was a season-high for the team on vault, and it helped reduce the deficit to 98.750-98.375 heading into the third round.

Junior Shona Morgan helped Stanford put together a strong floor performance, scoring a 9.900 in the event. Shona Morgan’s performance helped to solidify her as one the Card’s more consistent performers, posting a 9.800 or higher in each of her three events on the day. Ashley Morgan and freshman Taylor Rice each scored a 9.850 to round out Stanford’s score of 49.225. Stanford was now down just 0.175 points heading into the final round, trying to complete a furious comeback.

The Cardinal did just about all it could to try to finish off its unprecedented comeback, scoring a season-high 49.475 on beams. Junior Amanda Spinner scored a 9.950 to earn first in the event, followed by a pair of 9.850’s by sophomores Ivana Hong and Kristina Vaculik. Spinner and Vaculik’s scores were both career-highs for the two gymnasts.

Unfortunately, Utah was even better in its final event, posting a 49.525 to wrap up the final score. Utah’s Lia Del Priore produced a perfect performance on floor to help her team finish off the Card, scoring a 10.000. Utah’s final team score of 197.300 was a season best for the Utes, and it needed every bit of that to put away the tenacious Cardinal team.

Ashley Morgan earned another all-around title, her fourth of the season, with a score of 39.450. Vaculik, competing in her first all-around competition of the season, finished fourth with a score of 39.300. Stanford competes next on Friday, March 1, as it hosts California and Oregon State at Burnham Pavilion in the last home meet of the season for the Cardinal.

Contact Connor Scherer at cscherer@stanford.edu.