Last Friday night marked the final home meet for seniors Ashley Morgan and Nicole Dayton. So, on a night dedicated to honoring the two, the No. 12 Stanford women’s gymnastics team hoped to come away with a win against No. 9 Oregon State and California. The Cardinal managed to do just that, but not without some suspense down to the very end.
As they have done throughout the year and throughout their careers, Morgan and Dayton came up big when it mattered most to give Stanford the victory with a score of 197.200, just in front of Oregon State (197.175) and well ahead of California (195.000).
Trying to get an early lead in the meet, Stanford came out with a quick start, putting up a season-best 49.425 on vault. Sophomore Pauline Hanset led the way for the Card, earning a career-best 9.925, finishing tied for second overall with Oregon State’s Hailey Gaspar.
Sophomore Kristina Vaculik set a career-best for herself as well, finishing with a score of 9.900. Stanford had five competitors score at least a 9.850. While Stanford did it all it could to get out to a fast start, Oregon State did just as much, as the Beavers matched Stanford’s score with a 49.425 of their own. California would score a 49.200 in the event, giving the Bears a deficit they would be unable to make up over the next three events.
The Cardinal was nearly as impressive on uneven bars, posting a score of 49.400. Stanford was led by Ashley Morgan, who scored a 9.925 to finish second overall in the event. Vaculik posted her second 9.900 of the meet to finish fourth overall once again.
However, perhaps the most crucial moment of the event was the return of sophomore Rebecca Wing, who hadn’t performed all season due to an injury over the summer. Wing showed no signs of rust, tying her career-best with a score of 9.900 to match Vaculik.
“It felt so good to be competing again,” Wing said. “Even though it’s almost been a year, as soon as I stepped up to compete it felt exactly the same.”
Stanford’s 49.400 was another season-best score for the team, but would need more if it wanted to compete with Oregon State, who scored a 49.450 to take a .050-point lead heading into the third round.
Unfortunately for the Card, it would put together its worst performance of the meet on beam, suffering two rare mistakes to finish with a score of just 48.875. Beam has been Stanford’s strongest event this year, as it has outscored its opponent in every meet, earning the Card a fourth-place national ranking. Despite the two faults, Stanford’s other competitors came up big, led by sophomore Ivana Hong’s 9.925, which earned her first place overall in the event. Juniors Amanda Spinner and Shona Morgan would add a pair of 9.900’s, but perhaps the biggest performance came from Hanset in the sixth and final spot.
“I was extremely nervous, but I kept telling myself to do exactly what I do in practice everyday,” Hanset said.
Knowing that two of her teammates had made mistakes, Hanset understood she would have to perform well to keep her team in the match. Her 9.800 in the event made sure of that.
“It is the best feeling in the world when your team is counting on you and you rise up to the challenge,” Hanset said.
However, the Card was still trailing by 0.150 points going into the fourth and final round, needing a nearly flawless round on floor exercise to pull out the victory. Lucky for Stanford, Ashley Morgan and Dayton made sure they would do all they could to win their final home meet.
Morgan led the way for the Cardinal with a 9.925, while Dayton hit a career-best 9.875 to start off the round. Five of the six performers scored at least a 9.875, good for a team score of 49.500. Oregon State had a strong round as well, but its 49.325 would give Stanford the final margin of victory of just 0.025 points.
Stanford’s victory snapped a four-meet losing streak against Oregon State, while it improved to 38-1 against Cal since 1996. The Cardinal next competes on Saturday, when it travels to Oklahoma to take on Oklahoma and North Carolina in a tri-meet.
Contact Connor Scherer at csherer “at” stanford.edu.