Cardinal ready for a grand finale at the NCAA championships

The 10th-ranked Stanford women's gymnastics team scored big on Saturday, matching its season-high total of 197.275 to finish second at the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional.

The finish gave the Cardinal an automatic berth into the NCAA Championships, which will be held at Alabama beginning April 18.

Stanford gained entry into the prestigious tournament for the seventh time in the past eight years and 14th time in program history.

Only the nation's highest score, the host Tigers accumulated 198.325 points, topped the Cardinal's performance.

Stanford recorded its second-highest team score at an NCAA Regional, while gathering its second-highest event scores of the year on beam (49.450) and floor (49.325), and its third-best total on bars with a 49.325.

"It was an outstanding team effort," Cardinal coach Kristen Smyth said. "The team showed grit, they fought for everything and they did a great job of covering each other when they needed. We are definitely peaking at the right time."

Samantha Shapiro and Kristina Vaculik tied for the regional title on bars with meet-best scores of 9.950. Shapiro tied her career best in the event, while Vaculik set a career high.

Vaculik had a terrific meet, finishing third in the all-around with a 39.475, matching her third-highest score in the event on the season. She went 9.875 on beam, 9.850 on floor and 9.800 on vault.

Shona Morgan continued her strong senior campaign, recording top-10 results in each of her three events.

Morgan performed in the leadoff position in each event and tied for third on bars (9.900) and beam (9.925), and tied for ninth on floor (9.875). Her score on bars tied her career high.

"I can't say enough about Shona and how she led us off on three events, setting the tone with her confident and aggressive work," Smyth said.

Stanford received a strong effort on floor, its first rotation, with all six gymnasts scoring 9.850 or higher.

Morgan, Taylor Rice and Rachel Daum tied for ninth in the event, each scoring 9.875. Jenna Frowein delivered a collegiate-best 9.850, and Vaculik and Shapiro also tallied a 9.850.

"I was really proud of our floor team, led by our assistant coach Tabitha [Yim," said Smyth. "We got off to a strong start, hitting our second-highest score in the event of the season."

The Cardinal maintained the momentum on vault, with all six gymnast scoring 9.800 or higher. Melissa Chuang and Nicolette McNair paced the team with scores of 9.875 to tie for seventh. Rice earned a 9.825, while Daum, Vaculik and Danielle McNair scored 9.800.

A bye in the fourth rotation couldn't cool off the Cardinal, which returned in the fifth rotation to post a 49.325 on bars.

Stanford was led by Shapiro and Vaculik's first-place finishes, followed by Morgan's 9.900 to tie for third. Nicolette McNair scored a 9.850 to tie for eighth.

Stanford entered the final rotation in second place with a significant lead but needed to hit its routines to secure a top-two finish. The Cardinal did so with a flourish.

Stanford posted its second-highest score on beam this season with a 49.450. Morgan and Rebecca Wing led the team with scores of 9.925. Wing's score was a career best.

"There were so many clutch performances from a variety of gymnasts who stepped up when we needed big hit routines," said Smyth. "I was really impressed with our gymnasts who competed on one event. Jenna Frowein, Becky Wing and Melissa Chuang did a great job of filling their roles and scoring a couple career highs."

Vaculik and Amanda Spinner delivered strong performances on beam to score a 9.875 apiece. Nicolette McNair provided Stanford's final score with a 9.850.

Though her score didn't count toward the team total, Daum also showcased her strength on beam with a solid routine that earned a 9.825.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/Stanford Athletics


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