Women’s gymnastics doing it big to seek a NCAA berth

April 2, 2015, 11:56 p.m.

“Do it big, Stanford. Dream it big, Stanford.”

Since its inception at this year’s team retreat in the idyllic scenery of Lake Tahoe, that motto has carried the 2015 Stanford women’s gymnastics team through injuries, shuffled lineups and a tough schedule to where they are now: the cusp of NCAAs, the ultimate goal.

Senior Ivana Hong (above) tied a career high with 9.925 on the bars at the Pac-12 Championships, at which the Cardinal took third place. She will make her third career regional NCAA performance this weekend. (CASEY VALENTINE/isiphotos.com)

Ranked No. 11 in the nation, the Cardinal (10-9-1, 8-7 Pac-12) have a clear goal ahead of them this weekend: They need to finish in the top two of the teams at the Morgantown Regional in order to advance to the NCAA Championships two weeks from now. Only Florida, Illinois, Arkansas, New Hampshire and West Virginia stand in their way.

Do you feel the pressure yet? Well, this team certainly doesn’t.

“It’s more hopefully like an excitement at this point,” said senior Ivana Hong. “We’ve done it throughout the entire season and that’s what we’ve trained for. The coaches prepare us in the gyms so that we can handle that sort of pressure.”

That’s not to say that this isn’t a pressure-packed meet. With talented teams from all over the country, the margin is razor-thin. Stanford has toed the line carefully over the last three seasons, emerging with second-place finishes to qualify for NCAAs in each of those years.

For this year’s team, all of the pieces are there. The injuries that gave the team some inconsistency through the regular season have mended for the most part, and the team is in peak physical condition. The team has used the extra week since its third-place finish at Pac-12s in Utah to taper, stay the course and focus on the details.

That has certainly served the team well at the conference championships, where it finished in third and hit 23 of its 24 routines and finished with a 197.175, its second-highest scoring total of the season.

“Things seem to be falling into place more so, and we’re able to reach more of our potential,” Hong said. “We’ve seen glimpses throughout the season. So hopefully at Regionals, we’ll just do our normal gymnastics.”

This year’s team has tried to make their identity their own — “doing it big” — and a lot of gymnasts have certainly been standing out with their power and confidence, particularly with higher levels of difficulty on their routines. The expectations have also been set very high, and now that this team is fully healthy and hitting its stride, those lofty expectations don’t really seem out of reach.

Freshman Elizabeth Price put up twin 9.950 marks in bars and vault to win one Pac-12 title and claim the Pac-12 Specialist of the Year award. Hong has been coming on strong, tying a career-high with a 9.925 on bars. Nicolette McNair, Taylor Rice, Samantha Shapiro and Kristina Vaculik have also been solid presences, with Vaculik returning from an early injury to the stellar form that made her a three-time All-American last season.

Given the strong veteran presence in the squad, the bigger stage isn’t intimidating — in fact, the team looks forward to this meet, as it offers a chance to showcase its talents to a wider audience.

“It’s definitely my favorite part of the season and it’s my team’s favorite part of the season,” Hong said.

The Cardinal haven’t won a regional title since 2010. Is this the year that could finally change?

“That’s the plan. We’re doing it big, we’re dreaming it big.”

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Do-Hyoung Park '16, M.S. '17 is the Minnesota Twins beat reporter at MLB.com, having somehow ensured that his endless hours sunk into The Daily became a shockingly viable career. He was previously the Chief Operating Officer and Business Manager at The Stanford Daily for FY17-18. He also covered Stanford football and baseball for five seasons as a student and served two terms as sports editor and four terms on the copy desk. He was also a color commentator for KZSU 90.1 FM's football broadcast team for the 2015-16 Rose Bowl season.

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