Seven hundred and four days. That is how long No. 19 Stanford women’s gymnastics (1-5, 1-3 Pac-12) had to wait until competing in Maples Pavilion with a vibrant crowd.
“It was so surreal,” said fifth-year Kyla Bryant, performing again in a crowded Maples Pavilion. “As the meet was going on, I told the team that we have to be grateful for this environment and this space because we did not have this for two years.”
“This year, our theme is ‘Flip the Script,’” said head coach Tabitha Yim. “One part of that theme entails having an attitude of gratitude.”
“To see the crowd, to be back out here and to be at home after being on the road for three weeks is really special,” Yim added.
Hosting Bay Area rival No. 10 California (4-0, 4-0 Pac-12), the Cardinal could not break the Bears’ undefeated start to the season, falling 196.925-196.250. The score of 196.250 was just 25 thousandths short of their season-best, which they achieved also against Cal.
“We try not to focus on scores because that is something we cannot control,” Yim said of the team’s performance. “When you look at the performances across the event, especially at the second half of the meet, I think you see so much growth.”
“Overall, the performances are getting better and better,” Yim added. “We are a program on the rise, and I certainly feel we are taking the right steps to get to where we want to be.”
As with all home meets, Stanford opened its campaign on the vault. Three of five Cardinal gymnasts matched their career-bests in the event while Bryant eclipsed her previous career-best with a 9.925 en route to her individual titles on the vault and floor exercise.
“My performances just added fuel to the fire in this team,” Bryant said. “My team had a phenomenal night, and I am really proud of this team not only in this meet but also in practice.”
The Cardinal’s momentum did not end with Bryant’s vault. The uneven bars also produced season-bests from senior Madison Brunette (9.825) and fifth-year Taylor Lawson (9.800) as well as a career-best 9.750 from freshman Ira Alexeeva. Cal sophomore Andi Li claimed the uneven bars title with a 9.950.
The third rotation for Stanford featured the infamous four-inch-wide balance beam. Staying on the beam is hard enough, but Lawson impressed the Cardinal crowd with an Arabian with a blind landing to start her routine.
Consistency and poise landed all five Cardinal gymnasts scores of 9.800 or higher with sophomore Sze En Tan and senior Wesley Stephenson leading the way with 9.850s.
The Cardinal finished their home-opener at the center of Maples Pavilion on the floor exercise. Brunette matched her career-best of 9.875 and Bryant earned a season-high 9.950, the same score she earned to claim a share of the 2021 Pac-12 title in the event.
After a season-best team score of 49.300 to close out the meet and in honor of “Super Senior Night,” head coach Tabitha Yim presented Cal redshirt seniors Kyana George, Nina Schank and Emi Watterson with yellow roses to thank them for their contributions to their gymnastics program.
Then, Yim and assistant coaches Alexandra Pintchouk and Vince Smurro presented framed leotards for Bryant and Lawson to honor their contributions and achievements to the Stanford program in front of fans, friends and family.
“My favorite part of being a student-athlete is being a role model,” Bryant said, reflecting on her time as a Cardinal gymnast. “I think it is an honor and a privilege to be an example for the kids, and it helps me in the way that I carry myself.”
Stanford will remain on The Farm to host No. 22 UCLA on Saturday, Feb. 12 at 2:00 p.m. PT.