No. 1 Stanford men’s gymnastics turned the page from its runner-up finish at the Rocky Mountain Open, breaking the 410.000 mark with 410.250 points and capturing its first win of the season at the Stanford Open.
The Stanford Open featured No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 9 University of California, Berkeley and six members of the U.S. senior national team. All six members of Team USA were current gymnasts in the Stanford program: Olympian and senior Brody Malone, senior Ian Gunther, junior Riley Loos, sophomore Colt Walker and freshmen Taylor Burkhart and Khoi Young.
Team USA finished in second with 407.800, and the Sooners finished in third with 405.450.
Head coach Thom Glielmi emphasized the importance of the team aspect in the Cardinal’s victory.
“It was very encouraging for our guys to step up and do a great job,” Glielmi said. “This victory demonstrated the depth and culture of this team.”
“This is only the start, and we are going to build from here,” graduate student Blake Sun added.
The Cardinal opened up their campaign on the vault. En route to a season-best team score of 72.100, junior Zach Martin showed why he is an All-American in this event, leading the way with a season-best 14.800 and one-tenth shy of his career-high. Senior Curran Phillips finished right behind Martin with a 14.700, the same score he earned in Colorado two weeks ago.
Stanford headed next to the parallel bars, an event where the team is top-ranked in the nation. Despite a slow start from its two lead-off gymnasts, freshman Ian Lasic-Ellis (13.850) and sophomore Brandon Nguyen (12.000), the experience of Phillips, senior Thomas Lee and Sun came through with scores above 14.000.
Capped off with a stuck landing, Sun’s high-difficulty routine earned him an event title and new career-best 15.700, five-tenths better than his previous career-best.
“Beforehand, I was a little nervous because this is a qualifying meet for national competitions in the future,” Sun said of his performance on the parallel bars. “I know I am capable of performing a good routine and putting down a stuck dismount.”
“After I landed, there was so much relief, excitement and joy,” he added.
The Cardinal then moved on to the high bar, their worst event relatively speaking in terms of national rankings (4th). Despite this, the Cardinal improved their team score by 0.350. After suffering a season-ending knee injury at the beginning of the 2021 season, graduate student Andrew Bitner led the field with a 13.700.
The floor exercise awaited Stanford in the fourth rotation. Once again, experience repeated itself with the two lead-offs, Lasic-Ellis and freshman Luke McFarland, earning under 13.000; however, seniors Blake Wilson and Bryan Perla boosted the team with scores of 14.500 and 14.400, respectively. Wilson and Perla claimed the top two spots in the event.
Next, the Cardinal had to deal with the infamous pommel horse. The nerves did not get to the gymnasts, as all scored at least 13.150. Young impressed the crowd at Burnham Pavilion with his score of 14.950, which currently leads the NCAA in this event.
Stanford ended its home opener on the still rings, where it also tops the national rankings. Three Cardinal gymnasts earned scores of 14.100, enough to earn the victory over the Sooners, the Bears and Team USA.
“The meet went very well, and of course, we have ups and downs,” Sun said. “We had a lot of younger guys get the opportunity to play in the home court with the energy of the crowd.”
“This is our first home meet in two years, so it is definitely nice to be back on the home court competing for the Stanford fans,” Glielmi added.
There will be a quick turnaround for the Cardinal as they travel to Seattle and compete in the Pac-12 Invite on Feb. 4 at 7:00 p.m. PT.