Stanford Rests Stars, Still Scores Season High

Feb. 22, 2009

BERKELEY, Calif. -

Score Sheet in PDF Format The Stanford women's gymnastics team rested three of its top gymnasts on Sunday, but it didn't matter as a group of young athletes inspired a performance that resulted in a season-high point total for the No. 4-ranked Cardinal.

Ten Stanford gymnasts totaled 21 season-bests as Stanford piled up 197.175 points to earn its 17th consecutive victory over California (190.625), at Haas Pavilion. All this was accomplished without top all-arounders Carly Janiga and Nicole Ourada, and senior captain Heather Purnell, who were resting as Stanford (12-0) begins to prepare itself for its stretch run.

Two freshmen made their collegiate debuts, another appeared in a new event, and the team's only all-arounder was a sophomore who competed in a single event last year. The results were a revelation for Stanford coach Kristen Smyth, who saw each of them perform beyond expectations and was so proud she had tears in her eyes by the end of the meet.

'They work so hard,' Smyth said. 'Now, we know with every bit of confidence that no matter who we put in, we can count on them.'

Sophomore Shelley Alexander, strictly a vaulter last year, opened the meet for Stanford with a career-high 9.8 on the uneven bars, earning the first of her across-the-board season-bests. Alexander scored 9.8's or higher on every event on the way to scoring 39.4 to win the all-around. It was her first time over 39 in three all-around competitions and now gives Stanford three all-arounders with scores between 39.4-39.625, a testament to the depth the team has developed.

'Shelley started us off strong, confident, and steady,' Smyth said.

The freshmen took it a step further, earning three event victories.

'When you have new kids in the lineup, it's amazing the energy that generates,' Smyth said. 'The team was feeding off the energy and momentum.'

Former Canadian national champion Alyssa Brown bolted to a 9.925 to win the vault, earning her first collegiate victory in any event and scoring the highest for any Stanford performer in that event all season.

Freshman Nicole Pechanec, a Czech Republic national-team veteran, scored a Stanford season-best of 9.925 in the floor exercise and a 9.9 in her first collegiate try on the balance beam, winning both events.

Jenny Peter made her collegiate debut and scored a 9.8 on the vault, a higher score than any of Cal's six gymnasts in that event. And Catherine Nguyen, another freshman making her collegiate debut, performed a flawless beam routine before under-rotating on her dismount and falling on her landing.

'Our theme has been, `everybody has to be ready,' ' Smyth said. 'I'm excited to see the depth we have and I'm excited for the future of this program.

'The best thing about this is that the only way to maximize our potential as a group, is to have enough people in the lineup pushing each other for spots. If your sixth or seventh kid up is going 9.9, they know they have to work as hard as they can to keep their spot.'

There were highlights from veterans too, like junior Allyse Ishino, who scored season-best 9.9's to win the bars and tie Pechanec for first on the beam. Ishino, a 2004 U.S. Olympic alternate, is returning to form after missing the 2007 season with a pulmonary embolism and blowing out her knee last season.

Stanford, with its third consecutive score of over 197, didn't achieve such a feat until the postseason last year. The Cardinal has two regular-season meets remaining before attempting to defend its Pacific-10 Conference title on March 21 (4 p.m.) at Maples Pavilion.

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