Sports

Stanford gymnast wins NCAA individual title on vault

 

Stanford's Elizabeth Price won the NCAA title on vault and Ivana Hong placed second on beam at the NCAA Championships Individual Event Finals on Sunday in Fort Worth, Texas.

Price scored 9.9333 to become the second Cardinal gymnast in program history to claim a national title on vault. She joins Larissa Fontaine, who earned the championship in 1998 with a 9.8625. Price's vault score is the highest of any Stanford gymnast all-time at the individual event finals.

Price also competed on bars and tied for fifth with a 9.900. She finished her freshman campaign with seven scores of 9.900 or higher in nine meets in the event.

"She's really impressive and spectacular," said Stanford head coach Kristen Smyth of her lone freshman. "She's an incredible athlete with a lot of confidence and power, and an even better person. I look forward to her leadership next year. When she won the vault title I was thrilled for her, the program and Stanford."

Hong capped a great weekend on beam with a 9.9375 to become the third gymnast in program history to finish second in the event. She joins Lindsay Wing (2001, 9.925) and Carly Janiga (2010, 9.8875) as the only Cardinal gymnasts to finish among the top two in the event.

Hong finished the season scoring 9.900 or higher in each of her final six competitions, including a career-best 9.975 during the Super Six.

"She is stunning, breathtaking and beautiful," said Smyth. "She is an absolute artist and was composed throughout her routine. She continues to get better, pushes herself and leads by example. She's been inspiring all year and capped it off with a great beam performance."

Smyth added it was an especially inspiring weekend for Hong, returning to the Championships after suffering an injury during the 2013 NCAA semifinals. Hong's vault in the anchor position during Friday's semifinal competition propelled Stanford to its Super Six berth and an eventual fifth-place finish.

Taylor Rice also competed during Sunday's competition, finishing 13th with a 9.7625. Rice was Stanford's most consistent performer in the event throughout the year, hitting 100 percent (15-of-15) of her routines for scores of 9.825 or higher. She went 9.875 or higher in 11 meets, including in each of the final seven competitions.

"Taylor cut her own music, choreographed her routine and it is so much fun to watch her," said Smyth. "To see her growth as an individual and leader on the team is inspiring. Her work ethic in the gym, the way she has embraced team concept and culture is awesome. To see her rewarded this weekend is amazing."

It was a strong showing for Stanford and Pac-12 gymnasts as the contingent won three of the four individual event titles. Along with Price on vault, Utah's Georgia Dabritz (bars) and UCLA's Samantha Peszek (beam) also earned NCAA titles. Pac-12 gymnasts swept the top three positions on beam.

Sunday's event finals officially concludes Stanford's 2015 season. The Cardinal battled through illness and injuries early in the season to put together one of the team's most impressive finishes at the NCAA Championships in program history.

Stanford qualified to its eighth NCAA Championships in the past nine years, and 15th time overall, and made its seventh Super Six in the past 14 years. The Cardinal registered its third-highest score at an NCAA Championships in program history during the semifinals (197.175) and eclipsed that total to earn its second-best score at the finals competition (197.250) during the Super Six.

Six Stanford gymnasts combined for nine All-America honors -- the most since 2012. The Cardinal has now accumulated 110 All-America honors all-time, including 89 since 2002.

Smyth attributes much of the team's consistent success to the work contributed by associate head coach Chris Swircek and assistant coach Tabitha Yim.

The Cardinal will say goodbye to seniors Pauline Hanset, Samantha Shapiro, Kristina Vaculik and Rebecca Wing. However, the future remains bright with each of its 2015 NCAA Individual Event Finals qualifiers -- Price, Hong and Rice -- returning next year, along with a strong core of experienced gymnasts.

"The team showcased tremendous resiliency and grit throughout the season," said Smyth. "We battled all weekend and beat out and competed with some really amazing teams. We had a great showing and I'm proud of the team and the effort they competed with."

— Stanford Athletics

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