Amy Farnum, NCAA.com
Stanford’s Allyse Ishino is not just a gymnast — she is also a choreographer and a performer, and there is no better way to enjoy all of her talents than watching her woo a crowd with a hip hop-style floor exercise routine.
In her first two years competing for the Cardinal, Ishino was not a part of the lineup on floor. But that changed last season when head coach Kristen Smyth handed Ishino a few versions of Janet Jackson’s “Control” and asked the gymnast to choreograph her own routine.
Ishino is also a member of DV8 — a hip hop dance group on campus, and is minoring in dance, so when Smyth handed her the reins on the performance, it was bound to shine. The routine is unique with just two tumbling passes, rather than the typical three, and features Ishino’s hip hop dance moves.
“(The tumbling passes) kind of threw off the judges a little bit when they first saw my routine,” said Ishino. “I think they liked it enough to score me pretty well. I knew that my dance could compensate for the lack of my tumbling passes.”
“I felt like it was a great opportunity for her to showcase herself in a way that nobody else could do with the story and movement,” said Smyth. “She’s such a gifted choreographer and performer … she has such gift for movement and understanding musicality. This routine is so enjoyable for everybody to watch.”
Ishino worked her way into the lineup in all four events last year, competing in the all-around in Stanford’s last eight competitions and helping the Cardinal place fourth at NCAA Championships.
In the Cardinal’s first meet of the year at the Pac-10 Showcase, Ishino posted a career-high 9.90 on floor, and earned second place in the all-around competition in the seven-way meet.
“Floor is my favorite event because it is like a performance and I absolutely love the feeling you get when you perform in front of a huge crowd,” said Ishino. “It was a perfect combination of being able to choreograph and perform at the same time.”
Ishino grew up in an athletic family – her younger brother Glen is currently a sophomore on California’s men’s gymnastics team and won the all-around last weekend en route to the Bears’ upset of No. 1 Stanford. Glen is also a member of the U.S. Senior National Team. Her older sister Genine was a Cal women’s gymnast, and her older brother Gian wrestled for Wesleyan University.
Ishino’s parents, Glenn and Arlene, encouraged their children to try a variety of activities while they were growing up, and Allyse has continued that trend in college, most notably as a member of DV8.
“I wanted to be involved in as many activities as I could when I got here as a freshman,” said Ishino. “I was a little nervous, but decided to audition for one of the groups and got in. It’s a nice escape from gym and school, and a time to just have fun and let loose.”
It is that positive attitude that has helped Ishino get through the first couple years of her collegiate career, battling the injury bug. As a freshman, she suffered a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in lungs), and was forced to sit out because of the blood thinners she was taking. A bad fall could have led to internal bleeding.
“I was very frustrated at first, but as the season went on I got caught up in the excitement of the entire experience,” said Ishino. “The best thing I took from it was to learn how to be a member of the team and help out my teammates as much as possible.”
The next year, just when things were looking up, Ishino tore her ACL at Pac-10 Championships.
“She’s extremely resilient,” said Smyth. “As a freshman, she was raring to go and looking incredible, and then she had the pulmonary embolism. Allyse is not only determined, but she has the most positive attitude of anybody I’ve ever been around. She’s inspirational in her approach to everything she does and gives everything she has whether it is in the classroom or in the gym.
“Because of her attitude, she is able to bounce back and use everything that she’s been through as an opportunity for growth and to get better.”
With her gymnastics as solid as it has ever been, Ishino is also excelling in the classroom as she pursues her dream of becoming a doctor. The pre-med student will take the MCAT in the summer with hopes of entering medical school soon after graduation.
“I think I got interested in medicine because, unfortunately, I had to see the doctor a lot for injuries,” said Ishino. “Then, I went to Nepal a few summers ago and volunteered at a hospital for disabled children and it was a pretty eye-opening experience for me. I also shadowed a surgeon which helped me decide I wanted to get into surgery.”
Ishino, along with fellow seniors Shelley Alexander and Danielle Ikoma, provides Stanford a strong senior class that helped the Cardinal open the season with a victory at the ultra-competitive Pac-10 Showcase.
“I’m very excited about our leadership from our senior class this year,” said Smyth. “They are really the heart of the team and have a lot of experience. They came into this year really motivated and focused. The rest of the team has followed suit.”
“We wanted to come out confident, consistent and strong, and really have a good time, and that’s exactly what we did,” said Ishino. “Starting out with a huge competition was really exciting because of the atmosphere with a huge audience and lots of teams competing.”
The second-ranked Cardinal returns to action with another huge test as they host defending NCAA Champion and No. 8 UCLA on Jan. 23. Stanford won both last year’s dual meets between the two programs.