Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - January 1, 2010

Toby Gerhart

An athlete for all seasons

by Rick Eymer

Let this year be forever known as 'Year of the Toby.' Stanford's fabulous senior running back, Toby Gerhart, opened the year as the school's single-season rushing recordholder. He ends the year with that and much more.

Gerhart spent part of the year playing baseball at Stanford, hitting .288 with seven home runs and 36 RBI, both third best on a team that finished 30-25 overall. He was 7of-7 in stolen base attempts and made one error in 107 chances for a .991 fielding percentage.

The dude can play, and that got the creative minds on campus thinking and collaborating on what has turned out to be the advertising sensation of the decade.

Sometime between the baseball and football seasons, Senior Director of Media Relations Jim Young and Director of Creative Video Bud Anderson masterminded the creation of a series of "Toby Gerhart, Multi-Sport Athlete" promos that took on a life of their own as they were revealed over the summer and fall.

The videos were never designed to promote Gerhart's Heisman Trophy candidacy, and yet they sparked a grass roots campaign that helped put a face to the Gerhart legacy.

Gerhart was filmed with members of the men's tennis team, the men's golf team, the field hockey team, the men's swimming team and the synchronized swimming team — each becoming an instant classic. Visit Stanford Athletics' official web site for more information.

Gerhart might not have needed the support of outside influences. His Cardinal football teammates came to the aid of the Toby in his time of need. They blocked, threw and ran the ball and produced the most-prolific offense in school history.

In college years, a generation lasts but four years and so when Gerhart was named the Heisman runnerup, it seemed like a lifetime ago that Jim Plunkett accepted the school's only Heisman Trophy.

It's been a couple of generations since Stanford has been seen in a bowl game. That changes on the final day of the year: Toby's year.

Let's go back to the more innocent days of 2009, when Barack Obama was already making decisions as President of the United States and he hadn't even taken the oath of office.

(Here's hoping Menlo School and Stanford grad Nate Wilcox-Fogel found his dream job in the Obama administration. He planned to head off to Washington D.C. after graduating last December).

January brought high expectations for both the men's and women's basketball programs. Rookie coach Johnny Dawkins had the men playing well and winning a lot. The Cardinal was 10-0 when Father Time turned over the keys to the new year. It turned into another 20-win season as one of the finest senior classes in program history took its final bows.

Lawrence Hill, Mitch Johnson and Anthony Goods were recruited by Mike Montgomery, played for Trent Johnson and finished with Dawkins. Kenny Brown, the former walk-on turned dental student, merely added to their legacy of integrity and staying the course while others left for parts known.

They had magnificent wins over California and Arizona and at Arizona State. The Cardinal completed its season with a semifinal game in the College Basketball Invitational, a postseason tournament without much history but no one affiliated with Stanford was complaining.

Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer had her women wipe the sleep out of their eyes after a rough year-ending road trip gave Stanford a 9-3 mark heading into conference play. The Cardinal finished 33-5, reaching its second consecutive NCAA Final Four before losing in the semifinals.

The game of the season belonged to, of course, All-American center Jayne Appel. The Pac-10 Player of the Year scored a career-high 46 points in Stanford's 74-53 victory over Iowa State in an NCAA regional final on March 30. It was the third-highest total of any NCAA contest.

The women's basketball play of the year needs no set up. Just mention Lindy La Rocque's name and it conjures up her defensive hustle play against California that helped set in motion Stanford's path to the conference title. She got the assist on Jillian Harmon's ensuing layup. (Roll tape and ask to see the 'Lindy loves 3's' promo Anderson put together while you're at it).

The men's gymnastics team and the women's rowing team gave Stanford two more NCAA titles last year.

Thom Glielmi was named the College Gymnastics Association's National Coach of the Year and his assistant coach, J.D. Reive, was honored as the National Assistant Coach of the Year.

Redshirt senior Sho Nakamori was named Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Gymnast of the Year. He finished his Stanford career with eight All-American honors. Nick Noone, Tim Gentry, Alex Buscaglia, Kyle Oi, Ryan Lieberman and Bryant Hadden also earned All-American honors.

Jenna Levy, Erika Roddy, Di Eaton, Olympian Elle Logan, Grace Luczak, Julie Smith, Lindsay Meyer, Michelle Vezie and Adrienne Fritsch earned an NCAA title in the I Eight division in leading the Cardinal to the team championship, the school's first.

The winter sports season turned 'cardinal' hot for the Cardinal, which also had significant contributions from several other teams and individuals who helped the school claim its 15th consecutive Director's Cup for the best overall athletic program.

The men's swimming team finished third in the nation. Austin Staab won an NCAA title in the 100 fly.

The women's swimming team placed fourth at the NCAA championships. Olympians Elaine Breeden (200 fly) and Julia Smit (200 IM) won individual titles. Smit went on to establish world and American swim records and she's not done yet.

The women's gymnastics team reached the NCAA championships, finishing in a seventh-place tie, and Carly Janiga finished second on the uneven bars.

The coed fencing team was ninth in the nation. Lucas Janson (ninth in men's saber) and Eva Jellison (15th in women's saber) were the top individuals.

Stanford's Nick Amuchastegui and Luke Feist represented the school at the NCAA wrestling championships.

The synchronized swimming team finished second at the national meet, and the women's squash team was seventh. In indoor track, the men placed 11th and the women were 12th at the NCAA finals.

The men's volleyball team recorded 21 victories and Erik Shoji was the national leader in digs.

Stanford's athletic department continued its winning ways as spring sports took center stage. The rowers led the way as the women's water polo team finished third in the nation, the softball team reached a NCAA Super Regional and won 40 games behind All-Americans Missy Penna, Alyssa Haber and Ashley Hansen, the women's golf team competed at the NCAA Central Regional and Lauren Centrowitz was third in the 1,500 at the NCAA women's track and field finals.

We'd love to write about the women's lacrosse team making the NCAA tournament and they deserved to go, especially after beating one of the nation's top teams in Penn State. Unfortunately the Cardinal was overlooked by the selection committee.

In our book, we're calling the lacrosse team winners regardless. They won their conference title, played a competitive schedule, and, well, darn it, they're just good players.

The women's tennis team has a legacy of success and reached the NCAA Round of 16 last spring. Hilary Barte reached the Sweet 16 in singles and, with partner Lindsay Burdette, was the national doubles runnerup.

The men's tennis team also finished its season in the Sweet 16 as Bradley Klahn was named national Rookie of the Year. Paul Clayton reached the quarterfinals of the singles tournament.

Garrett Heath ran second at the NCAA men's track and field finals, earning his ninth All-American honor. Stanford was seventh as a team.

The men's golf team finished 20th at the NCAA finals while the baseball team, despite a 30-25 record, failed to qualify for postseason. Closer Drew Storen continued playing as the Washington Nationals' second pick of the first round. He agreed to terms in about 30 seconds and got his professional career underway in a big way, advancing to the Triple-A level before it was all over.

While the football team and Gerhart generated most of the headlines this fall, every other sport had their day in the sun (or the pool or the court) to round out the year.

Kelley O'Hara is the frontrunner for the National Player of the Year Award in women's soccer. She's already been named the best by Soccer America as she and Christen Press combined to write a new chapter, co-authored by coach Paul Ratcliffe.

Stanford reached its first ever national championship match and was undefeated until North Carolina won the final, 1-0. Olympian Ali Riley and Mariah Nogueira were also named All-Americans by Soccer America in addition to O'Hara and Press.

The men's team reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in eight years and reached the Round of 16 before falling to top-ranked Akron. Bobby Warshaw was a semifinalist for the National Player of the Year award and was named an All-American.

The women's volleyball team also reached the Round of 16 and junior libero Gabi Ailes became the school's all-time digs leader. Alix Klineman, Cassidy Lichtman and Janet Okogbaa were named All-American.

The field hockey team qualified for the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years and there's a pattern developing there.

The men's cross country was ranked first heading into the NCAA championships, winding up 10th overall as Chris Derrick finished third and was joined on the All-American list by Elliott Heath. The women's cross country team finished 16th.

The men's water polo team were never ranked lower than third in the nation at any point in the season but were knocked out of the NCAA Final Four on the final day of the MPSF tournament. Jimmie Sandman, Drac Wigo and Janson Wigo were named All-American.

We come back to football, which completes the season on Dec. 31 with an appearance in the Brut Sun Bowl against Oklahoma. What do Stanford and Gerhart have in store? We'll be watching to find out.

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