The Stanford women’s gymnastics team is one of 12 competing in the NCAA Championships this weekend in Pauley Pavilion at UCLA. After earning second place at the Regional Championships on April 6 — finishing just a few tenths of a point behind Oklahoma — the Cardinal was given the No. 9 seed heading into this weekend’s competition. One advantage the Cardinal has, however, is plenty of experience heading into the Championships. This will mark the sixth time in seven years that Stanford will be hunting for the national title.
The team tournament is broken up into two separate days. On Friday at noon, Stanford will compete in the first of two semifinal rounds. Along with Stanford, the other teams included in its semifinal are top-seeded Florida, No. 4 Georgia, No. 5 LSU, No. 8 Minnesota and No. 12 Illinois. In the second of the semifinal rounds are No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Alabama, No. 6 UCLA, No. 7 Michigan, No. 10 Utah and No. 11 Arkansas. To advance to Saturday’s competition, the Super Six, Stanford needs to finish in the top three in its group, as three teams from each semifinal advance to the final round. While this may seem like a daunting task as a No. 9 seed, the Cardinal has shown that it can defy expectations; last year the team was ranked No. 10 and ultimately advanced to the Super Six, finishing fourth in the nation.
Of the teams in its semifinal group, this season the Cardinal has faced both Illinois, which it defeated 196.025-193.750 in a quad meet on Jan. 12, and Georgia, which beat Stanford 197.000–195.400 on a Jan. 21 contest. However, the loss to the Bulldogs was just Stanford’s third of the season, and the team has lived up to its mantra of focusing on improving since then. The team score of 195.400 was its worst score of the season, and in each of the past eight competitions heading into the Championships, the Cardinal has scored at least 196.000 points.
In order to place in the top three of its group, Stanford will need to build on its recent success and put together one of the team’s strongest performances of the season. This will take an all-around effort, but the team will look to its All-Americans to lead the way. On Sunday, three Cardinal gymnasts received All-American honors: junior Amanda Spinner received First Team honors in beam, while senior Ashley Morgan (floor) and sophomore Ivana Hong (beam) both received Second Team honors.
Hong is coming off individual titles on beam and vault in the Regional Championships, though after the meet expressed that her team’s success was more important to her than individual accolades. Heading into this weekend’s competition, she will give the Cardinal a good chance to succeed if she performs at her maximum potential.
“Qualifying for NCAAs is always exciting and we’ve got even more potential than we’ve shown, so I’m thrilled to continue this season with this amazing group of girls,” Hong said.
If the Cardinal advances to the Super Six, it will compete at 4 p.m. on Saturday for the national title. Once all team competitions are wrapped up, the top four individuals in each event from the semifinals will then compete on Sunday with hopes of earning individual honors. Last year, sophomore Sam Shapiro represented Stanford well by earning second place nationally in uneven bars. But the team has much bigger goals this weekend, as it hopes to return to the Farm with the national title.
Contact Connor Scherer at cscherer ‘at’ stanford.edu.