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Vaculik, McNair aiming to push Stanford into NCAA Championships

The No. 10 Stanford women’s gymnastics team (19-4, 11-3 Pac-12) will head to Louisiana this weekend to compete in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional, where it will hope to claim its seventh NCAA Championship berth in the last eight seasons.

It will mark the 31st consecutive NCAA Regional appearance for the Cardinal, who have claimed five regional titles in their history. Stanford has never failed to advance to the NCAA Championships after having competed in the Baton Rouge Regional — with the top two teams from each regional advancing to the national meet, Stanford finished second in 1999 and won the meet in 2008.

Senior Shona Morgan (above)

Senior gymnast Shona Morgan (above) will be competing in her fourth career NCAA regional meet this weekend in Baton Rouge, La. (Stanford Daily File Photo)

Stanford will compete against a field of five other teams featuring No. 3 LSU, No. 13 Auburn, No. 21 Arizona, Kent State and Iowa State. Of those squads, the only team that Stanford has competed against this season is Arizona, which the Cardinal defeated in a dramatic come-from-behind win in mid-January.

LSU will be looking to earn its second consecutive regional title after emerging victorious in the Columbus Regional last season. Led by junior Rheagan Courville, who is ranked second in the country in the all-around, the Tigers finished their regular season with a 15-5 record and will be the top-seeded team at Sunday’s meet.

As the only other top-10 team competing in Baton Rouge this weekend, the Cardinal will aim to build on a season in which it defeated 11 top-25 teams and three teams in the top 10 before finishing a narrow second at the Pac-12 Championships.

Senior Kristina Vaculik, who led Stanford with 15 individual victories on the season and earned first-team all-conference honors in the all-around, will lead the Cardinal into the meet. Vaculik also earned a third-place finish in the bars at the Pac-12 Championships after claiming four individual victories out of the five events in a victory over Cal in early March.

Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Nicolette McNair will also be looking to make a big impact for the Cardinal after a breakout first collegiate season in which she earned six individual victories and hit 94 percent of her routines on vault, bars and beam. She has only gotten stronger as the season has progressed and will be riding the momentum of a career-best 9.950 on bars that clinched her second place finish in the event at the Pac-12 Championships. She was ultimately rewarded for her efforts with first-team all-conference selections in both the bars and vault.

Stanford will also bring lots of experience to the table at the meet, with nine gymnasts that have competed in previous regionals — including senior Shona Morgan, who will be competing in her fourth regional lineup — and six that competed in the NCAA Super Six in 2012, including all-conference second team selections Amanda Spinner and Samantha Shapiro.

The meet will take place on Saturday starting at 2 p.m. in Baton Rouge, La.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027@stanford.edu.

About Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park '16 is the head copy editor and a sports desk editor at The Daily. He has previously served as the Vol. 245 Managing Editor of Sports and primarily writes football, women's soccer and columns that he's pretty sure nobody reads except for him. Do-Hyoung is a junior originally from Seoul, South Korea and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota pursuing a major in chemical engineering. To contact him, please email him at dpark027 'at' stanford.edu.