Let’s Dance! Chloe Widner Leads the Cardinal to Fort Worth – 2024 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Preview

Let’s Dance! Chloe Widner Leads the Cardinal to Fort Worth – 2024 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Preview

By Christy Sandmaier

Let’s Dance. In this season’s Cinderella story, for the first time since 2016, Stanford heads to NCAAs following a second-place finish at the Berkeley Regional Final. Down .100 going into the final rotation, the Cardinal came through to dance matching its best floor rotation of the season to secure a place in Fort Worth. 

Battling with Denver and Arizona State for the second spot throughout the competition, it was a fight to the finish in Berkeley and when fifth year standout Chloe Widner took to the floor to anchor the rotation, she knew the door was open just enough for Stanford to step inside. Widner needed a 9.875 to tie for the second spot and in what was reminiscent of a Hollywood script, came through with her first career 10.0 on the event, punching the Cardinal’s ticket to nationals and becoming the first unseeded team to make nationals in its new format.

And while the Cardinal heading to Fort Worth may have been the surprise of the season to everyone else, for Widner, it was all part of the plan. 

“At the beginning of season, actually, our goal was top eight. I feel like we had some ups and downs throughout season. I wouldn’t say we lost sight of that goal, but it wasn’t as at the front of our mind. We were trying to be less results-oriented and really focusing on competing exactly how we practice and doing exactly what we do in the gym. And before the first day of Regionals, (head coach) Tabitha (Yim) was actually talking to us, and she told us, ‘The postseason is for teams who are normal. You see all these teams that are supposed to be moving on that don’t, because something big happens that’s very different from what they normally do.’ When we saw our seeding, we said, ‘We can definitely make it out of day one. We got this.’ We didn’t really talk about day two until we got there.

“We’re very focused on one day at a time doing exactly what we need to do in that moment. Once we got to day two, we were like, ‘Okay, let’s do the same thing that we just did two days ago and see where it takes us. Let’s not try too hard. Let’s do what we do in the gym.’ And obviously it paid off. It’s really cool to see because we didn’t do anything special. That is what we’ve been training. And so, it almost did feel like a normal day.”

The task ahead in Fort Worth means staying normal and in the moment, trusting their abilities and showing up, Widner said, noting she thinks starting on bars will be an advantage to the team.

“Beam is our best event, and that’s a tricky event to be good at because people always say that’ll make or break the day. But we’re starting on bars. And so getting bars and beam, the two shaky events out of the way first and being able to set the standard on those because we have such clean gymnastics, I think that’ll be really nice for us. Then we get to end on vault, which is historically not our best event. Being able to capitalize on the momentum we have going into that is going to be really nice for us.”

Instrumental to the Cardinal’s success in Fort Worth will also mean key performances from Anapula Gutierrez, Brenna Neault, Amanda Zeng, Ava Sorrento, Ira Alexeeva and Sienna Robinson.

“This team is the hardest working team that I’ve been a part of,” Widner said. “I think that over the summer and in the fall, we put in a lot, a lot of work. We did a lot more conditioning than normal. We did a lot more numbers. We started focusing on the details way earlier in the preseason than we normally are able to. We all knew that this is a special team, that we were going to do something great. For it to come together in these last couple of months has been really cool to see.”

Here’s more of our conversation with Chloe!

First, what an amazing accomplishment! What a headline you all generated! Tell me how you all are feeling coming into this week and what have you done to stay excited, but also focus on the job ahead?

Last weekend at Regionals was such a great moment for the team. I think it really solidified to us that all of our hard work has been paying off and that we are doing the right things. We haven’t really changed much going into Nationals from our preparation for the rest of season. I think something that we really have been focusing on this year on has been practicing how we want to compete and then competing how we practice. I think that’s exactly what we did the last few meets and it’s finally all coming together. We have everyone back and healthy, and people are getting more confident, and things are just settling a little better than they were in the first half of season. These past two weeks, I guess now, we’ve really been focusing on just continuing to do exactly what we’ve been doing the whole rest of season and preparing ourselves in the way that we would feel most confident.

I know it’s so different for every team and every athlete, but were you aware how close you were going into that last event? Did that change your approach to floor at all? Take us inside that moment…

I think for me, specifically, I love looking at the scores. I love it when it gets close. I love the competitiveness of that. During our last rotation, I think we were down a tenth going into it, and we were like, ‘We’re a good floor team. If we hit, we’re chilling.’ So we didn’t change anything that we did on floor. We did our little circle before floor, and (assistant coach) Hallie (Mossett) was like, ‘Okay, do what you know how to do. That’s going to be good enough.’ I’m sitting there watching all the other teams competing in between our routines, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s getting close. We could do this!’ Actually, before my routine, I was trying to look at the scoreboard to see what score I needed. They hadn’t updated it yet by the time I saluted. I’m in the middle of my routine, and I actually snuck a glance over and I was calculating. While I’m doing my dance, I was like, ‘Okay, I need this score for us to make it.’ I knew that I could get that score if I just made my routine.

After I finished my last pass, I knew immediately that we had done it. It was just so cool as a team to have that moment together. Obviously, the results are special, but the routines we did that day were exactly what we’ve been training, exactly what we’ve been competing, and it just all worked out so well for us.

Did it feel like icing on the cake a little bit, though, to get the 10?

I actually didn’t even know I got a 10 until after the meet was over. We were putting our sticker up, and then I saw one of the screens, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, guys, I got a 10.’ 

It was such an exciting Regional across the board. And every year there’s a Cinderella story, a Cinderella team. As I was watching everything unfold that day, you can get a sense about certain teams that they’re really on, and they really want it. Did you all feel like you were going to do it from the start? What was the day like?

I think the morning felt pretty normal. The warm-up felt pretty normal. There wasn’t any extra energy or anything different. But we started on vault, and after the first girl went, it was a Yurchenko full. It wasn’t anything crazy, but I was like, ‘We’re going to do this’. And I don’t remember who I turned to, but I was like, ‘Guys, this is going to happen.’ And they were like, ‘How can you tell from this’ I don’t know. I can just feel it. And Tabitha always says, ‘It’s whoever wants it more that day. It’s whoever’s going to fight for every single tenth. And we did exactly that. You see that from the sticks that we got on bars and beam, and it comes down to those little tenths. We were just really on that day. 

What are you looking forward to most this week? 

I think, for me, I already I went last year as an individual, and I qualified by myself before our team even qualified this year. I was already planning on going. I’ve already done it before. To be able to go as a team is going to be so great. I think it’s going to be so fun to be able to compete on such a big stage with the people that we work hard with every single day and the people that I care about the most. Also for me, specifically, I’m from Dallas, and so it’s going to be really fun to just go home and in my career there with my family around and a bunch of my old teammates are on teams that have made it, too. So, it’s just going to be really nice for me personally just to be where I’m most comfortable with my team.

And knowing that you’re in such a special leadership role having been there before, what advice or wisdom… What do you think you’ll say to your teammates to inspire them or encourage them going into Thursday?

I think it comes back to just how our preparation for this week and for Regionals was. Let’s just do our normal. We’re so prepared. I feel like for us now, an off day is still very good. Just to not overthink, just to go out there and have fun and have confidence in the training and the hard work that we’ve been putting in – having confidence in ourselves because we’ve always had the gymnastics, we’ve always been there. But something that we’ve been lacking is just knowing our worth and trusting in our abilities in the work that we’ve been putting in. You’ve seen that a lot from us this year. We have been having more confidence. We have been showing up. Just to continue doing that and compete just how we have been the last month or two. It all came together in such a perfect way.

For our complete 2024 NCAA Championships Preview, Click Here!


From 36 to 8, Fort Worth promises an NCAA Women’s Championship to remember! Will 6-time (2014, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2022, 2023) National and defending champion Oklahoma capture their seventh crown? Will LSU finally take the championship title they’ve been chasing? Can Cal capitalize on a record-breaking season? It’s about to be Go-Time in Fort Worth and right now, it’s anyone’s game.

Here’s how to watch it all play out, along with our look at the field of eight including quick takes from commentators Aly Raisman and John Roethlisberger, who spoke with the media on Monday.


Thursday, April 18th

  • NCAA Championships Semifinal I | LSU, Cal, Arkansas, Stanford | 4:30 p.m. ET | ESPN2
  • NCAA Championships Semifinal II | Oklahoma, Florida, Utah, Alabama | 9:00 p.m. ET | ESPN2

Saturday, April 20th

  • NCAA Championships Finals | 4 p.m. ET | ABC

Both Semifinal competitions are scheduled to be televised on ESPN2 with John Roethlisberger, Aly Raisman and Taylor Davis on the call. ABC will broadcast the final “Four on the Floor” on Saturday. Each apparatus will have its own individual stream with commentary. Samantha Peszek and Bridget Sloan will commentate the vault and beam streams, and Anastasia Webb and Kennedy Baker will commentate on bars and floor.

Photos by Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics; courtesy of Stanford Athletics

Subscribe Here to Inside Gymnastics magazine!

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Sign Up and Save!

Sign Up and Save!

Sign Up for our newsletter and receive a code for 20% off anything on shopinsidenation.com!

SUCCESS! Use code "NEWS" for a 20% discount on shopinsidenation.com!