Stanford relinquishes NCAA title
In one of the longest and truly oddest men’s gymnastics competitions in collegiate history, Stanford men’s gymnastics just barely missed reclaiming its championship title Friday evening at the 2010 NCAA Team Final in West Point, N.Y. Stanford earned second place with a team score of 359.8, just 0.7 points behind the Michigan Wolverines, who vaulted to their fourth national title. The Oklahoma Sooners rounded out the top three with a score of 357.05.
Though some fans were initially upset by Stanford’s second-place finish, others highlighted the competition’s great competitive atmosphere.
Stanford catapulted through vault to take an early lead with a team score of 64.05. Freshman Eddie Penev, a seasoned veteran of international competition as a member of the Bulgarian national team, performed his best vault of the year – and the best vault of the competition – earning a 16.4. Junior Josh Dixon and junior co-captain Tim Gentry also scored big on vault, each earning a 16.0.
Stanford then went on to earn the top parallel bars score of the night with a 59.70. Redshirt junior Nick Noone scored a 15.45 and junior Ryan Lieberman scored a 15.25 to lead the Cardinal.
On horizontal bar, Stanford claimed the second best score of the night. Dixon led the Cardinal with a score of 14.75, redshirt sophomore and co-captain Abhinav Ramani came in with a 14.65 and junior Alex Buscaglia followed with a 14.60.
After these first three rotations, Stanford held a steady lead.
“We started off really well,” said student assistant coach Bryant Hadden.
But that’s when the competition started going haywire. As Stanford was finishing up its horizontal bar rotation, Illinois was up on still rings when the apparatus broke halfway through one gymnast’s routine. As NCAA and host Army officials attempted to repair the apparatus, competition halted for nearly one hour.
In an effort to keep their momentum running and their muscles warm, athletes began hopping, jogging and even hand-standing in place. Realizing that the sudden stop in competition could affect the gymnasts’ performances, NCAA officials allowed for additional warm-up time before restarting the competition and also between each apparatus.
However, the additional time may not have been enough.
“Gymnasts definitely looked tighter, like they were starting the competition all over again,” Hadden said.
And even after officials repaired the still rings, the apparatus was still considered unstable. Five additional gymnasts went on to peel off the rings, causing several coaches to demand further inspection. Competition was slowed again as NCAA and Army officials re-examined and re-repaired the apparatus. Judges later decided to allow those six athletes who had peeled off during their dismounts to redo their routines for a final score.
Through the second round of repairs, Stanford lost some momentum. On floor exercise, normally an extremely solid and explosive event for the Cardinal, several athletes made small mistakes on their landings, costing the team several tenths of points to move toward a 61.15. Penev, however, performed one of the most crowd-pleasing events of the evening, earning a score of 14.75.
On pommel horse, an event that has worried the Cardinal all year, Stanford pulled off six clean routines, with sophomore John Martin earning a score of 14.75 to lead Stanford.
But as the Cardinal moved to still rings, Michigan moved to vault – typically the highest scoring event of any gymnastics meet. Few athletes and fans going into the meet had considered Michigan a contender for the national title, but by the final rotation, it was clear that Michigan was the team to beat. Gentry and Noone led the Cardinal with scores of 15.15 and 15.0, respectively, but Michigan pulled off six solid vaults to secure the first-place finish.
Still, Stanford athletes and fans are happy with their performance.
“We did great,” said head coach Thom Glielmi. “There were several issues during the competition, but we were able to keep focus and get the job done.”
At the individual competition on Saturday evening, two Stanford gymnasts, Penev and Lieberman, won national titles, while six others became All-Americans by placing in the top eight on their apparatus.
Penev performed an extraordinary vault to score a 16.45 and become the 2010 NCAA vault champion. He also earned an All-American honor with his second place finish on floor exercise, while Buscaglia finished fifth.
Dixon also did well on vault, placing third and earning an All-American honor with a score of 16.05. Gentry placed fourth and earned an All-American with a score of 15.95.
Lieberman performed an extremely difficult parallel bars routine to become the 2010 NCAA parallel bars champion. Noone placed fourth.
Gentry also became an All-American on still rings, placing third in the field. Noone earned an All-American with his fourth place finish.
Buscaglia finished fifth, Ramani seventh and Dixon eighth on horizontal bar to earn their All-American honors.
Martin placed sixth on pommel horse to earn his All-American.