Gymnasts Gather for Season-Opening Retreat

Sept. 11, 2008

STANFORD, Calif. - Classes have yet to begin, but the Stanford women's gymnastics team begins work this week toward a third consecutive NCAA Super Six appearance.

The Cardinal first gathers Friday for physicals and fitness testing. And, on Saturday, it travels to San Mateo County's Costanoa Coastal Camp for a weekend retreat.

The gymnasts will participate in team-building exercises until they return to campus Monday. Practice begins the next day.

'One of the many reasons we do this is to give the freshmen an opportunity to feel a part of the team and part of the family before we get to the gym,' eighth-year head coach Kristen Smyth said of the annual retreat.

Though they will be on the beach, this will be no 'day at the beach,' Smyth promises.

'There will be physical and mental challenges,' Smyth said. 'The retreat can show us glimpses of how we handle different situations.'

The retreat location changes each year. Most recently, retreats have been held at Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe. Activities included an 'Amazing Race,' in which teams of gymnasts try to locate clues and complete activities before moving on.

The formula has worked so far for Smyth, whose program has risen into the nation's elite. Stanford finished third at April's NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga., tying Stanford's best-ever finish. It was the Cardinal's third top-five finish since 2004.

The expectations are again high with the return of first- or second-team All-Americans Kelly Fee, Carly Janiga, Nicole Ourada, and Blair Ryland.

In addition, the Cardinal welcomes a strong freshman class of Alyssa Brown, Catherine Nguyen, Nicole Pechanec, Jenny Peter, and Allie Skoly.

The schedule offers the typical demanding Pacific-10 opponents, as well as a home event against four-time national champion Alabama on March 6. This year, the Pac-10 championships will be held at Maples Pavilion, on March 21.

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