The women’s gymnastics team has not competed since its fourth place finish at the Pac-12 Championships on March 23, which marked the 13th year in a row that Stanford finished fourth or better at the conference championships. At the meet, the Cardinal faced an early deficit but finished strong due to a couple of standout individual performances.
Stanford looked to its proven stars to help the team salvage a poor start. Three Cardinal gymnasts received Pac-12 first-team honors: senior Ashley Morgan (all-around), junior Amanda Spinner (beam) and sophomore Ivana Hong (beam).
Spinner showed why she also won the Pac-12 Specialist of the Year for her consistent performance throughout the season on beam, as she scored a 9.925 to earn a co-title in the event. Similarly, Morgan proved once again to be one of the conference’s best floor performers, earning a share of the individual title with a 9.950 in the event, a career best. Hong also shone, scoring an all-around score of 39.575, the highest all-around score for any Stanford gymnast this year and fewer than 0.200 points behind an individual title.
Despite certain notable individual performances, Stanford as a team wasn’t at its best in its last competition but earned a respectable 196.625 team score. It will likely need to compete at a higher level if the team hopes to advance to the NCAA Championships for the fifth time in six years.
In order to make it to the final rounds in Los Angeles, the Cardinal will have to place in the top two at Saturday’s NCAA Norman Regional. Stanford earned the No. 2 seed going into the competition, but that doesn’t mean the team can relax for Saturday’s meet.
The Cardinal, the No. 11 team in the nation, is one of just four teams ranked in the top 25 at the Regional. No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 14 Penn State and No. 22 Washington will likely be Stanford’s stiffest competition this weekend, while Iowa and Southern Utah also have a chance to stand between Stanford and a championship berth. Oklahoma is expected to give Stanford the most difficulty, as it is a team with proven talent that has spent most of the year as one of the nation’s top teams and beat the Cardinal in a March 10 tri-meet with North Carolina.
One thing Stanford has going for it is plenty of experience in important postseason meets. Last year, the Cardinal earned a trip to the National Championships by finishing second in the six-team regional field, just ahead of host Illinois, and ultimately placed fourth with a very impressive meet in the championships.
Morgan expects the Cardinal’s experience to pay dividends when the team is under pressure on Saturday.
“I think it is very helpful that a majority of our team had this experience last year, especially in helping to prepare the younger girls,” she said.
The team hopes for a similar outcome this year, as there is no turning back if the team fails to place in the top two. The team missed out on the Championships two seasons ago by finishing fourth in the regional competition, and the members of that team will be the first to tell you that is not how the team wants to end a season.
“Missing out [on the NCAA Championships] is what lit a fire for the last two years and allowed us to push harder and work harder than we ever have before,” Morgan said.
If Stanford does indeed move on to the next round, it will join five other teams in the National Championships from April 19-21.
Contact Connor Scherer at cscherer “at” stanford.edu.