Season in Review: Another Banner Season for Women's Gymnastics Team

May 13, 2009

STANFORD, Calif. - The Stanford women's gymnastics team had another season to be proud of, finishing eighth in the country for its third consecutive top-10 finish and reaching the NCAA Championships for the seventh time in nine years.

The Cardinal was ranked No. 3 in the nation for four consecutive weeks of the season, produced three consecutive scores of 197 and above for the first time in five years, and beat its first 12 opponents for the best start in school history.

Stanford compiled a 17-4 regular season record and went 23-8 overall, as Kristen Smyth was awarded Pac-10 and regional Coach of the Year honors, earning her fourth conference Coach of the Year award.

Stanford had two first-team All-Americans, Carly Janiga and Nicole Ourada, who combined for four All-America honors. It marked the 11th consecutive season that Stanford has had multiple All-America honors. Since 2002, Stanford has won 60 All-America honors.

In all, Stanford gymnasts won four Pac-10 individual titles and three NCAA South Central Regional crowns, with Janiga winning the all-around championships in both meets.

Nine Stanford gymnasts made the Pac-10 All-Academic team, the most of any school, and five were all-conference selections.

Besides her all-around accomplishments, Janiga was second in the uneven bars at nationals, Stanford's highest-ever finish in that event and its best finish in any event since 2001. Ourada was 10th in the same event, giving Stanford its first top-10 bars pair since 2004.

Janiga won three Pac-10 titles and earned a pair of 9.95 scores on the balance beam, Stanford's highest scores in any event. At the team banquet Friday, Janiga won the team's Academic Award and was selected as the team's Most Valuable Player.

Ourada completed her career as a seven-time All-America selection, placing her fifth all-time on the list of Stanford's multiple All-Americans. Besides winning her first two Pac-10 titles, on beam and floor, she was selected as the regional Gymnast of the Year by coaches.

The potential of Stanford women's gymnastics was on full display on Feb. 22 in Berkeley, when the Cardinal rested Janiga, Ourada and Purnell and still earned its highest team score of the year. The Cardinal's 197.175 score beat California for the 17th consecutive time and came in a meet in which it totaled 21 season bests and when two freshmen made their collegiate debuts.

Only Nicole Pechanec, who distinguished herself in bars and on floor, competed in the final team event of the year from Stanford's five-member freshmen class. But the injuries, some suffered before the gymnasts arrived on campus, that shelved or slowed the others, only means that next season Stanford will strengthen itself next season with a large group of essentially new gymnasts.

That list includes the three recruits from next year's freshmen class, and the full group from this year's freshmen. That should make up for the absence of 2009 graduates Ourada, Kelly Fee, and Heather Purnell.

The season and gymnastics career of Fee ended with a twisted ankle at the NCAA Championships. The senior was unable to continue and was forced to cut short her floor routine in Stanford's final rotation of the team preliminaries that April day in Lincoln, Neb.

Fee's finale couldn't have come to a worse conclusion. But she refused to let the situation get the best of her. Balancing on one leg, Fee smiled at the judges, waved to the crowd and did a little bow before stepping off the floor and into the realm of former gymnasts.

For Stanford, the moment provided a glimpse of what the Cardinal was all about in 2009. It was a team that fought until it could fight no more, and had high hopes and weeks of brilliance balanced by disappointments and some unfulfilled expectations.

Still, like Fee, it performed with grace and class, even as the season concluded with the exit of three seniors of great impact: Fee, Purnell, and Ourada.

'Gymnastics is still going to be part of my life,' said Fee, after her final performance. 'I don't see myself completely cutting myself off, whether judging or whatever. I'll probably miss the physical training, but more than that, I'll miss the coaches and the girls and the sense of team.

'Whatever job I do, I'm never going to have that feeling of doing something together, and going on a journey and being committed to something, and the sacrifices. That's the kind of thing you only get in college. It's been a long road, but I've had a blessed career.'

Here is a list of team accomplishments for 2009:

Eighth-place NCAA finish
Four All-America honors
Two first-team All-Americans
Four Pac-10 individual champions
Three regional individual titles
Nine Pac-10 All-Academic selections
Five All-Conference selections
Three consecutive NCAA top-10 finishes
Sixty All-America honors since 2002
Seven NCAA appearances in nine years

Here are some individual accomplishments for 2009:

Carly Janiga
NCAA runner-up on the uneven bars, Stanford's highest NCAA finish since 2001
A four-time first-team All-America
Six All-America honors
2009 NCAA South Central Regional all-around champion
2009 Pac-10 all-around champion
Two-time Pac-10 balance beam champion
Won three Pac-10 titles in 2009
Three-time Pac-10 All-Academic selection
Two 9.95s on the beam, Stanford's highest scores of the year
Team captain
Stanford team Academic Award winner
Stanford team Most Valuable Player

Nicole Ourada
Seven-time All-America
Three-time first-team All-America
2009 Pac-10 champion on bars and floor
2009 NCAA South Central Regional vault champ
Stanford team Most Inspirational award
Regional Gymnast of the Year

Shelley Alexander
All-Pac-10 first-team on vault and floor
Honorable mention Pac-10 All-Academic team
Pac-10 vault runner-up
Stanford Most Improved award

Kelly Fee
All-Pac-10 second team on vault and floor
Team captain
Stanford team Gymnast of the Year award

Danielle Ikoma
Pac-10 All-Academic second team
Stanford Most Improved award

Allyse Ishino
NCAA South Central Regional bars champion
First-team All-Pac-10 on beam

Heather Purnell
Team captain

Blair Ryland
Pac-10 All-Academic honorable mention

Tenaya West
Two-time Pac-10 All-Academic selection

Kristen Smyth
Regional Coach of the Year
Pac-10 Coach of the Year
Four-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year winner

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