Several Stanford men's gymnasts will be gambling with their future when a group of Cardinal performers compete at the Winter Cup Challenge in Las Vegas beginning with preliminary rounds Thursday inside the Las Vegas Sports Center.
More than just NCAA competition this year, the Challenge will be used to help determine the U.S. National team that will compete at the World Championships this summer.
In addition to Stanford participants Alex Buscaglia, Josh Dixon, Tim Gentry, Ryan Lieberman, John Martin, Nicholas Noone, Cale Robinson and Chris Turner, reigning U.S. all-around champion and World all-around bronze-medalist Jonathan Horton heads a list of accomplished stars in the field.
"The guys have been training well and our goal is to hit all our routines," Stanford coach Thom Glielmi said. "By doing that they are in a strong position to be selected to the national team."
There are seven members of last year's World Championships Team and four Olympians, as well as 29 members of the junior and senior national team also included.
The meet is used as a re-ranking meet for the USA Sr. National Team. There are eight spots on the national team that are determined from the two-day competition. The top-ranked all-around athlete who is not already on the senior national team; four based on the National Team Points System; two athletes selected by the Men's Program Committee; and one selected by the national team coordinator.
The Challenge also counts toward the NCAA average for individual gymnasts, so the Cardinal will be able to judge itself against the rest of the nation.
"This is a great opportunity for this early in the collegiate season," Glielmi said.
There are 63 collegiate gymnasts from 13 universities competing in this year's event, nine of whom are current senior national team members and 14 more on the junior team, including Robinson, a member of the junior squad. Buscaglia is on the senior team.
Stanford fifth-year senior Allyse Ishino was named Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week for her performance in the Cardinal's dual-meet victory at Utah last week.
Ishino won the uneven bars and balance beam with 9.90 scores on the way to capturing the all-around victory. Her score of 39.475 was a collegiate career high, and her beam score tied her all-time best.
Ishino was fourth on the floor (9.825) and fifth on vault (9.85) for the Cardinal (8-0), which continues its season Saturday against San Jose State at Burnham Pavilion at 4 p.m.
Stanford is predicted to finish second in the Pac-10, according to a vote by the conference's 10 coaches. Cal is picked sixth.
UCLA, which, along with Arizona State, played in last year's College World Series, received eight first place votes and 79 total points and is the preseason favorite.
Stanford received two first-place votes and a total of 66 points.
Pac-10 Baseball Preseason Coaches' Poll
1, UCLA (8 first place votes) 79 points
2, Stanford (2) 66
3, Arizona State 60
4, Oregon 59
5, Arizona 48
6, California 46
7, Washington State 37
8, Oregon State 28
9, USC 16
10, Washington 11