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Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - April 22, 2011

Banner day! Stanford's 100th NCAA title

Cardinal men's gymnastics team achieves a milestone by vaulting to 2011 national championship

by Rick Eymer

Thom Glielmi made some quick calculations as his Stanford men's gymnastics team was about to begin its final rotation inside St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio, last Friday night.

The Cardinal, ranked second in the nation entering the NCAA championship meet, enjoyed a successful meet up to that point However, with teams on different events and scores fluctuating all evening, it was difficult to determine what was needed on the vault, usually the highest-scoring event of any meet.

"I thought if we scored a 64 it would pretty much make it hard for another team to come back," Glielmi said.

He was spot on as Stanford scored a 64.550, the best of the day and enough for Stanford to win the NCAA title.

The Cardinal scored 363.450 points to defeat second-place Oklahoma (361.600) and third-place Illinois (360.150).

It was Stanford's second NCAA gymnastics title in three years and earned the school its historic 100th NCAA team championship.

"I had no idea the banner was there," Glielmi said of the specially designed banner to celebrate the milestone. "The NCAA has been lugging it around to every championship event Stanford was entered. They finally broke it out. It was a nice thing."

Not that it was a major topic of discussion.

"I never talked about it with the guys," Glielmi said. "I think the guys knew, but they weren't focused on it. With all the great (Stanford) teams this year we were expecting to hit that before now. No one realized it would get all the way to April. The fact it's the men's gymnasics team is a great honor. We are all pleasantly surprised at the fanfare we've received since we returned to campus. It was great to receive all the texts, the phone calls, and the messages."

For seniors Alex Buscaglia, Josh Dixon, Tim Gentry, Ryan Lieberman, Nick Noone and Abhinav Ramani, it is the culmination of the most successful four-year stretch in the program's history.

Over the past four years, Stanford has won two national titles and was the national runnerup the other two times. The Cardinal has finished no lower than third since 2006.

"Gentry was a junior national champion, a real solid guy with solid character," Glielmi said. "You never needed to push him. He's self-motivated. He's gotten to where he is through hard work and dedication."

Gentry, a seven-time All-American, Buscaglia and Lieberman have all been members of the U.S. national team. Dixon is a current member of the squad.

"You could see Alex had some talent as a junior gymnast," Glielmi said. "He was recruited by other programs but no one could have foreseen that he would progress to the level he did. He's business-like. He gets it done. He's surprised people how far he's come along."

Buscaglia earned the NCAA individual title on the horizontal bars, adding to his outstanding season that began with a gold medal at the Pan Am Games over the summer. He is a six-time All-American.

Lieberman was the 2010 national champion on the parallel bars and is a two-time All-American.

"He's a great talent and a great kid," Glielmi said of Lieberman. "Because of his experience he has the ability to help in each event. He sets the stage as a start-off guy in a few events (including vault)."

Dixon was fourth in the floor exercise, earning his seventh All-American honor.

"Josh is another guy who exceeded a lot of people's expectations," Glielmi said. "He had a breakout year to make the national team."

Ramani sustained a broken arm during his junior year of high school and did not compete as a senior. He became a collegiate All-American.

"I encouraged him to walk on," Glielmi said. "I had no idea the quality of person we were getting. He's a great leader on the team. He's like the team mom who checks up on guys to make sure everything is in order."

Noone, a four-time All-American, returned for a fifth season after sitting out his freshman year. He suffered an injury early in the season and was able to recover in time to contribute to the national title.

"We were not sure he would be able to put together a routine," Glielmi said. "He pushed to get back into the lineup and he earned a Master's degree to boot."

The Cardinal won't be left empty-handed next season, with the likes of All-Americans Eddie Penev, Cameron Foreman and Chris Turner. John Martin, Jordan Nolff, James Fosco, Paul Hichwa and Jason Stevens also competed.

"The seniors are still on cloud nine," Glielmi said. "The rest of the team has already started talking about routines they want to construct and in what events they will compete."

Glielmi never discussed winning the school's 100th NCAA title. He remembered Darrin Nelson approaching him minutes before opening ceremonies two years ago and telling him the athletic department was counting on him to extend the streak of consecutive years with an NCAA title.

As it turned out, there was no need to worry. This year, Stanford took care of both No. 100 and extending the consecutive year streak to an NCAA record 35 years. A banner year, indeed.

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