March 10, 2010

By Amy Farnum

TOP THIS: Stanford, the defending NCAA champion, is preparing for a repeat performance at next month’s national championships with two victories over then-No. 1 squads in the last three weeks. The loss was Oklahoma’s first of the season.

After topping then-No. 1 Michigan on Feb. 27, the Cardinal knocked off top-ranked Oklahoma in a tri-meet at Nebraska on March 7, posting the highest team score in the nation this season at 361.65.

Stanford won three events – the still rings, vault and horizontal bar -- and tied the Sooners on the parallel bars, but it was the vault where the Cardinal really took off with a NCAA season-high score of 65.55. The Cardinal recorded five scores of 16 or higher, including a 16.5 by Tim Gentry for the nation’s top individual score this season. Gentry leads the nation with a 16.3 average on the vault.

The Sooners placed second in the meet despite recording their highest score of the season (360.300) led by junior Steven Legendre, who claimed the all-around (88.850) and floor (16.100) titles. Legendre paces the nation with a 16.067 average on the floor, and trails teammate Jake Dalton in the all-around rankings with an average of 88.483, good for second.

Following an extended break for finals, the Cardinal returns to action at Illinois-Chicago on March 26. Meanwhile, the second-ranked Sooners will travel to No. 5 Ohio State on March 13. Oklahoma and the Buckeyes have combined to win six NCAA titles since 2000 with the Sooners collecting five championships and Ohio State winning in 2001.

FLYING HIGH: University of Illinois junior Paul Ruggeri picked up his sixth career Big Ten Gymnast of the Week award after earning a pair of event wins in his team’s 357.500-346.600 victory over Iowa last weekend.

The native of Manlius, N.Y., collected his fourth high bar title of the season with a career-high and school-record score of 16.100, and added a win on the parallel bars with a 15.300, helping the Illini to their highest team score of the season. Entering the week, Ruggeri ranks first on the high bar with a 15.933 average, and is third on the parallel bars (15.100).

Third-ranked Illinois hosts No. 4 Michigan on March 13, and will be held in conjunction with the women’s gymnastics meet between Illinois and No. 14 Missouri.

BALANCED ATTACK: Six different Ohio State gymnasts placed first on five of six events in the Buckeyes’ 351.800-346.00 victory over then-No. 8 California on March 6. Senior Justin Myers won floor with a career-best 15.35, sophomore Steven Spencer claimed the pommel horse title with a season-best 15.4, junior Brandon Wynn took rings with a 16.0, sophomore Mike Behles placed first with a 15.85 on vault while senior Tai Lee and junior Sean Regan tied for first on high bar with Wynn, a native of Voorhees, N.J., continued his reign as the nation’s best on the still rings, earning his fourth consecutive title in the event with a 16.0. He is averaging a nation-leading 16.033 on the rings this season.

The Buckeyes conclude their regular season home season in a co-ed meet against Oklahoma, but Ohio State will be back in Columbus to host the 2010 Big Ten Championship on April 2-3.