By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
The Stanford men's gymnastics team, fresh off a spring break trip to Norway, heads to Colorado Springs for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championships, hosted by Air Force, on Saturday.
The Cardinal returned to the U.S. with plenty of success. In team competition, Stanford finished with a score of 415.950, second to Italy and ahead of Norway.
Senior Eddie Penev was a three-time winner in the all-around (85.050), floor (15.150), and vault (15.000). James Fosco was the still rings runner-up (14.350), as was Dennis Zaremski on parallel bars (13.900). Sean Senters was third on horse (13.900) and vault (14.850), while Zaremski on rings (14.100) and John Martin on high bar (14.450) were also bronze placements.
Penev ranks second in the nation in all-around with a four-score average of 87.450. He's first on the floor exercise (15.767) and tied for second on the vault (15.167). Senters (15.083) ranks eighth on vault.
No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 4 Stanford will battle for the team title, with the Sooners having the advantage. California will likely finish third. The Sooners are ranked among the nation's top six on all six apparatus.
In addition to Penev and Senters, Cameron Foreman (ninth on parallel bars, 14.833) and Paul Hichwa (seventh on high bars, 14.750) are also ranked among the top.
Stanford (3-3, 14-9) will put its No. 25 national ranking on the line this weekend in a three-game Pac-12 series at USC (4-5, 11-17).
Senior Mark Appel (4-2, 0.96) will face Bob Wheatley (3-2, 1.58) in Friday's opener at 6 p.m. Stanford also is expected to have Marcus Brakeman (0-0, 2.35) go Saturday and Bobby Zarubin (1-1, 1.78) start Sunday's finale at 1 p.m.
Appel pitched a complete-game shutout in his last start, a win at Washington State last week. He allowed four hits and struck out 10.
Appel is the Pad-12 leader in strikeouts (64), has fanned double-digit batters in five straight starts and has earned three complete-game victories this season. Appel's .161 opposing batting average ranks second in the league, and his 0.96 ERA ranks 12th in the NCAA.
On Thursday, Appel was named Baseball America's top pitcher for the first half of the 2013 season.
No. 11 Stanford earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Norman (Okla.) Regional, which gets underway Saturday.
The Cardinal hopes to gain a bid into the NCAA Championships. The top two finishers, which also include the host Sooners, Penn State, Washington, Iowa and Southern Utah, will gain automatic access to the NCAA Championships in Los Angeles on April 19.
Stanford is coming off a fourth-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships in Corvallis. The Cardinal had difficulties as a team in each event, including one missed routine in three of four events, but received standout performances from multiple gymnasts. Stanford finished with a team score of 196.625 to place behind Pac-12 Champion Oregon State, UCLA and Utah.
Ashley Morgan won her third consecutive conference floor title, tying her career-best of 9.950. It was Stanford's fifth consecutive floor title, extending a streak that began with Carly Janiga in 2009 and 2010.
Amanda Spinner claimed her first conference title on beam with a 9.925. Spinner was also named the inaugural Pac-12 Specialist of the Year, given to the top gymnast who is not an all-around competitor.
The Cardinal is ranked in the NCAA top 25 in all four events based on the Regional Qualifying Score. Stanford is eighth on balance beam (49.185 RQS), ninth on uneven bars (49.280 RQS), 13th on vault (49.255 RQS) and 19th on floor (49.190 RQS).
No. 13 Stanford (2-0, 7-2) faces its toughest test of the MPSF season this week with a match at conference co-leader Denver (3-0, 11-1) on Friday.
The Pioneers, winners of 10 straight, and California both share 3-0 conference records entering play this week.
Stanford goalie Lyndey Munoz was named MPSF Defensive Player of the Week after recording a 6.50 goals-against average and .536 save percentage last week.
Denver's Jill Remenapp leads the nation with 42 assists while teammate Kate Henrich is the NCAA caused turnovers leader with 39.
The Cardinal beat Fresno State, 21-8, on Tuesday and has won five in a row. Hannah Farr scored four times and added an assist while Julia Burns scored three times with two assists.
Women's water polo
Maggie Steffens earned her second consecutive MPSF Newcomer of the Week award after helping No. 2 Stanford go unbeaten in five matches in Hawaii last week.
It will be a little tougher this weekend when UCLA comes to town for a conference game at 1 p.m. on Saturday (Pac-12 Networks). The fourth-ranked Bruins have given the Cardinal (3-0, 22-1) trouble through the years.
UCLA (3-1, 21-3) lost to Stanford, 8-5, in the Stanford Invitational on Feb. 3. The Bruins also have lost one-goal games to USC and Arizona State.
The Cardinal's lone loss was to top-ranked and undefeated USC in the championship game of the UC Irvine Invitational. Stanford has won 10 straight since.
Saturday's game is Stanford's final home match. The Cardinal travels to USC, Loyola Marymount and California to conclude the regular season.
California hosts the MPSF tournament beginning April 26, with the winner guaranteed a spot at the NCAA championships in Boston, hosted by Harvard, beginning May 10.