Stanford men embark on gymnastics title chase

Stanford last won a national title in 2011. Photo courtesy of Stanford Athletics.

The sixth-ranked Stanford men's gymnastics team begins its pursuit of a sixth national title in school history Friday afternoon at the NCAA Championships in Chicago. The Cardinal is looking for its first NCAA title in seven years.

Stanford has captured five NCAA titles, most recently taking home the hardware in 2011. The Cardinal also won it all in 1992, 1993, 1995 and 2009, with head coach Thom Glielmi at the helm of the two most recent championships.

Robert Neff/Stanford Athletics
Stanford Athletics has already claimed three NCAA championships in 2017-18, increasing its nation-leading all-time total to 116 thanks to victories in women's soccer, men's soccer and women's swimming and diving.

The Cardinal is scheduled to compete in the first of two pre-qualifying sessions and enters Friday's meet with a 407.775 qualifying score. Stanford has been grouped with No. 2 Minnesota (409.463), No. 3 Michigan (408.588), No. 7 Nebraska (407.175), No. 10 Navy (401.550) and No. 11 Air Force (396.625).

Of those six schools, Stanford has competed against Michigan, Nebraska and Air Force at some point this season, finishing ahead of all three in separate meets.

Three-time defending NCAA champion and top-ranked Oklahoma (414.713) is featured in Friday's late session. No. 4 Illinois (408.463), No. 5 Ohio State (408.350), No. 8 Penn State (407.038), No. 9 Iowa (402.850) and No. 12 California (395.275) are also slated to compete.

The top three teams from Friday's preliminary sessions will advance to the finals session (4 p.m.) on Saturday.

Stanford has remained a top-10 fixture since January, winning five of its eight competitions. The Cardinal placed fourth at NCAA Championships in 2017 after back-to-back runner-up finishes the previous two seasons.

Stanford enters Friday's meet ranked among the nation's top-10 in five categories: parallel bars (2nd at 69.025), high bar (3rd at 67.713), still rings (6th at 67.688), vault (6th at 71.200) and floor (7th at 68.275). The Cardinal remains just outside in pommel horse, checking in 11th at 65.188.

Individually, the Cardinal is represented in the national rankings with three top-10 competitors. Robert Neff is tied for second with a 14.338 national qualifying average on high bar, Blake Sun ranks fourth on parallel bars at 14.225 and Ryan Sheppard owns the sixth-best all-around mark in the country at 80.150.

Neff is also in the running for the prestigious Nissen-Emery Award, given annually to the top senior gymnast in the nation. Recognized as the highest honor in the sport, the Nissen-Emery Award will be presented Thursday night at the NCAA Championship Banquet before competition gets underway the following afternoon.

Neff was the 2017 NCAA champion in the high bar and is a four-time All-American, claiming titles in the high bar (2), all-around (1) and parallel bars (1).

Neff, a member of the U.S. Senior National Team who represented his country at the 2017 World University Games in Taiwan, is attempting to become Stanford's sixth honoree overall and second in a row after Akash Modi was named last year's recipient.

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