Stanford women’s gymnastics earned a season-high team score of 196.625 to win the first of two sessions at the Pac-12 Conference Championships at Maples Pavilion on Saturday. The Cardinal held off No. 16 Cal (196.300), Arizona (196.275) and Arizona State (195.600) in the afternoon session, ultimately finishing fifth at the championships behind No. 5 Utah (197.925), No. 10 Oregon State (197.400), No. 3 UCLA (197.100) and No. 15 Washington (197.100).
Junior Elizabeth Price tied for second on floor in the meet with a 9.925, the highest individual title for Stanford. Price also finished fifth on vault with a 9.900. Career-best performances on beam for senior Nicolette McNair (9.925) and freshman Ashley Tai (9.900) earned them fourth and seventh place, respectively. Senior Rachel Daum gave her career-best effort in the all-around, placing ninth overall with a combined score of 39.300.
With the team recovering from injuries throughout the lineup, Stanford relied on gritty performances on each event, with many athletes competing in irregular lineup spots.
“This week in particular, we had girls stepping into events they haven’t competed in the past just to give us a little more room and depth,” said head coach Kristen Smyth. “It’s been a true team effort from top to bottom, with everybody stepping up and contributing when we needed it.”
Stanford overcame a fall in the first rotation, rallying back on bars to earn a team score of 48.950. Nicolette McNair, freshman Aleeza Yu and Price scored matching 9.825s in their routines. McNair, the leadoff bar worker, set Stanford on the right track, finishing her routine with an intricate full twisting double back dismount. Yu continued after, floating through her routine. In the anchor position, Price found big air on her releases, finishing the rotation strong with a double layout dismount.
Smyth emphasized the importance of the team’s recovery:
“That was a pivotal moment for sure. Today our main goal was the hit five solid routines on every event, which they did. They were able to cover each other beautifully. The girls stepped up and made sure that we didn’t count a fall on bars. Following up by hitting six-for-six on beam, six-for-six on floor and six-for-six on vault to finish out the meet was huge for us.”
The Cardinal carried the momentum from the strong bars finish to the balance beam, where the team delivered six hit routines, earning a season-high team score of 49.250. Sophomore Taryn Fitzgerald started off the rotation with a stuck 1.5 twist dismount to earn a score of 9.825. Stanford continued to show confidence throughout, with Daum tallying a 9.850 after her stuck dismount. Tai and Nicolette McNair highlighted the event, earning career-high scores of 9.900 and 9.925, respectively. The powerful beam performances put Stanford in the lead at the halfway point of the meet.
“It’s one of those years that has not been easy. It’s been a struggle, and this team stayed positive and kept fighting, which was a real gift,” said Smyth. “The team is peaking at the right time and putting everything together at the right time. After what they have been through, they are battle tested and mentally strong.”
On a roll, Stanford continued building its score on floor. Sophomore Hailee Hoffman and freshman Kaylee Cole earned matching 9.800s to start the rotation off well for the Cardinal. Daum performed both a double pike and a double tuck in her routine, sticking her closing dismount to rack up 9.850 points. Anchoring the rotation again, Price rocked the arena with sky-high tumbling, earning a 9.925, the highest score of the first session.
“Coming into this meet we tried to shake off the injuries and struggles in the past and think of it like a new competition,” said Price. “We wanted to stay calm and collected and just take it one routine at a time. We know we’re capable of hitting routines under pressure, so we just tried to show that out on the floor.”
The Cardinal flew high on their last rotation, closing out the competition with powerful yurchenko full vaults to record the highest team score of the first session. Cole, Tai and Yu received matching scores of 9.850 before Price finished off the afternoon with a 9.900 to claim the victory for Stanford.
With more postseason competition in the road ahead, Stanford hopes to build on its performance at Pac-12s and continue to raise the team score at regionals.
“You never know what can happen at regionals, but I think we’re a dangerous team, especially with what we showed today,” finished Smyth. “If we do what we did today, then we have a shot. It’s going to be tough, but it’s in these environments where our work tends to shine. To put out the best score today and perform the way we did today, that sets us up well for regionals.”
Contact Laura Anderson at lauraand ‘at’ stanford.edu.