Preseason No. 8 Stanford women’s gymnastics opens their season this Sunday, Jan. 10, at the NorCal Classic in San Jose, California in what will be the Cardinal’s first chance to prove and establish themselves as a team.
The competition hosts both Pac-12 and non-conference teams. Joining the Stanford Cardinal will be UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Sacramento State and San Jose State.
Cal, the only other member of the Pac-12 that will be present at the competition, is ranked 14th nationally and fifth within the conference in the preseason coaches’ poll. Last season, Cal ended up 18th nationally, claiming the sixth position in the Pac-12 Championship in Utah, where Stanford finished third. The Cardinal hope to once again overcome the Bears, starting off the season right.
UC Davis, part of the Big Sky Conference, has won its conference championships for four years straight. In 2015, the Aggies were ranked 39th nationally and are looking to rise up the ranks this year.
Compared to the other teams in the NorCal Classic, Sacramento State is historically less accomplished, winning more regional, smaller competitions. San Jose State, on the other hand, placed second at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships last season, with Spartan gymnast Cami Guyer nominated as MPSF Gymnast of the Year. The program is now undergoing development, especially given that Guyer graduated, with remaining members of the team looking to fill her spot.
Last season, the Cardinal had a rocky start, with injuries that forced the team to reorganize its lineup. By the end of the season, though, the team won sixth place in the NCAA Championships, allowing it to shoot into the Super Six as the lowest ranked team. The team’s outstanding final performance — headed by then-seniors Kristina Vaculik and Ivana Hong, along with freshman Elizabeth Price — was both unexpected and cherished. Hong and Price, as well as three-time All-American Taylor Rice, return this season to headline a team that hopes to make its mark once more on the national stage.
The Stanford men’s gymnastics is likewise starting off their season on Monday, Jan. 11, taking on Cal at Maples Pavilion. This is the first of at least four encounters that are scheduled to take place between the rival schools this season.
Stanford was ranked third nationally in the coaches’ poll, while the Bears were ranked seventh. The two teams are the only Pac-12 teams to be placed in the top 15 spots in the rankings, forecasting a close opposition that could last throughout the season.
Last year, the Cardinal placed second in the NCAA Championships, with current junior Akash Modi winning the all-around title. Senior Sean Senters won the vault event, accompanied by a gold on the parallel bars event earned by teammate Brian Knott.
Cal, on the other hand, finished eighth overall. Despite Cal not performing as well as Stanford in last year’s NCAA Championships, the team has historically been very strong, taking home four NCAA Championship titles, one fewer than Stanford. Stanford earned its last NCAA title in 2011 (with one close before that in 2009), compared to Cal’s last title being earned in 1998.
“Stanford has been doing well in the past years against Cal, and we hope to continue that trend,” said freshman Luke Sturm.
The Cardinal this year has a strong underclassmen group, with six freshmen joining the already extremely accomplished group.
“We hope to get the season started with the match against Cal. It will hopefully be a great start to our run towards the national title,” stated Sturm.
Contact Laura Sussman at laura111 ‘at’ stanford.edu.