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Women’s gymnastics falls just short of NCAA finals

The No. 10 Stanford women’s gymnastics team saw its national title aspirations come to an early end on Friday when it finished fourth at its NCAA Championships Session I semifinal, just one place shy of qualifying for the finals and rendering it unable to clinch its second Super Six berth in the last three seasons. However, despite the disappointing team finish, three Cardinal gymnasts advanced to the Individual Finals and claimed first-team All-America honors to close out their seasons.

Stanford finished with a score of 196.600, behind eventual national co-champion No. 2 Oklahoma (197.500), No. 6 Georgia (197.300) and No. 3 LSU (197.100). The loss ended another strong season in which Stanford finished second at the Pac-12 Championships and second at the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional with scores over 197.000, a mark of which it fell just short at the national semifinals.

Junior Samantha Shapiro placed second in the NCAA Individual FInals and earned first-team All-America honors. (ZETONG LI/The Stanford Daily)

Junior Samantha Shapiro (above) placed second in the NCAA Individual Finals on bars and earned first-team All-America honors for her efforts. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

There were some particularly impressive performances from the highly talented field of individuals, especially on bars, where senior Kristina Vaculik claimed a share of first place with her 9.925. Senior Shona Morgan and junior Samantha Shapiro finished in a five-way tie for third with scores of 9.900. Morgan again tied her career high score as she did at the NCAA Regional, and was rewarded for her efforts with a first-team All-America honor, the first of her career.

“Shona has done a great job since the day she arrived and was great all year,” said Stanford head coach Kristen Smyth to GoStanford.com. “You couldn’t ask for more out of anybody than what she gave. She loves her team and Stanford women’s gymnastics. She represented our program better than we could have ever asked for.”

Meanwhile, Vaculik was also impressive on the beam, finishing in a tie for second with 9.900 to add to her stellar performance on bars. Although she had spectacular routines on bars, vault and beam, she had to bounce back from a shaky day on floor, on which she suffered a deduction to finish with just a 9.600.

“The biggest thing about Kristina was how she bounced back after her floor routine,” Smyth said to GoStanford.com. “She came back and did great on her next three events. It showed a lot of growth and leadership potential for the future. She’s done a great job all year, but I see her making those steps to become an even better leader every time she steps out on the floor.”

Vaculik’s shaky floor routine was part of a subpar performance on floor for the team as a whole to start the meet, which earned just 49.025, making for an early setback. Another 49.025 in the vault to follow the floor put Stanford in an even bigger hole alongside unforgiving competition. The deficit was ultimately too much for Stanford to overcome.

Freshmen Nicolette and Danielle McNair had impressive performances in their first NCAA Championship meets, with both recording scores over 9.800 in each of their events. Freshman Rachel Daum also stood out with her trio of scores of over 9.800 on vault, beam and floor.

At the Individual Finals on the following day, Shapiro and Vaculik finished second and third respectively in bars, while Morgan finished ninth to cap off a spectacular trio of performances for the three newly crowned first-team All-Americans. Vaculik also contributed a seventh-place finish on beam later to add to her impressive resume.

With the season coming to an end, Stanford will head into the offseason without the team result that it desired at the national championships, but with a talented and experienced corps of young gymnasts that will look to continue making their mark on the program into the future.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park '16 is the head copy editor and a sports desk editor at The Stanford Daily. He has previously served as managing editor of sports and still writes for the football, women's soccer and men's water polo beats. 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.