Andrew Luck is on a short list of the greatest athletes ever to play at Stanford, so other than John Elway, there may not be a Cardinal athlete alive whose accomplishments match that of the Colts quarterback.
But when it comes to athletic accomplishments, Nicole Pechanec — Luck’s girlfriend — is no slouch.
Pechanec, who studied architecture at Stanford alongside Luck, was a standout on the Cardinal gymnastics team who also competed internationally for the Czech Republic.
Watch Pechanec’s floor routine in the video above and read on for more about her gymnastics career and background.
1. Pechanec Captained the Stanford Gymnastics Team & Was Named Team MVP as a Senior
Pechanec was a four-year standout at Stanford who made an impact as a freshman and improved every year, eventually serving as the Cardinal’s captain and being named team MVP as a senior in 2012.
According to her bio on the Stanford athletics website, she was the only team member to compete on the floor in every meet and one of two team members to compete on bars in every meet as a freshman in 2009. That year, she was also the Cardinal’s only freshman to compete in the NCAA championships.
She was named second-team All-Pac 10 on the floor as both a sophomore and junior and was named second-team All-America for all-around and floor exercise as a senior in 2012, when she won the NCAA Champaign Regional title on the uneven bars.
At the end of the academic year, Pechanec was awarded the university’s Pam Stathairn Award as the female senior athlete with the best competitive attitude. Watch her acceptance speech in the video above.
2. Pechanec Competed Internationally for the Czech Republic
While at Stanford, Pechanec — who was born in New Jersey but whose parents grew up in the Czech Republic — was a member of the Czech senior national team, for whom she competed under the name Nicole Pechancova, according to her Stanford bio.
Pechanec joined the national team in 2006 and competed in the World Championships in 2006, 2007 and 2010 and the European Championships in 2007 and 2008. You can watch her 2007 bars routine in the video above.
She was the second all-around finisher for the Czechs at the 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where she had team-best performances on the beam and floor.
3. Pechanec’s Mom Was a Gymnast & Her Dad Was a Sailor for the Czech Republic
Pechanec is from a family of athletes. Her mom, Yvette, was a star gymnast who competed for the Czech national team. Her dad, Tomas, sailed for the Czechs in the Europa and Fin classes and later competed at the U.S. nationals after moving to the United States.
Yvette ran a training center in Union, New Jersey, where Nicole got started as a gymnast and trained until she was 12 before moving to a training center in Aiken, South Carolina, according to her Stanford bio. Her last training stop before going to Stanford as the Parkettes National Gymnastics Training Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where her mom was one of her coaches.
Nicole was homeschooled throughout her childhood and graduated in 2008 from Keystone National High School, which says it offers “flexible online learning” to homeschooled students in grades 6-12.
4. Pechanec’s Sister Monica Was a Pole Vaulter at Brown University
Nicole isn’t the only Pechanec to have been an athlete at a university with elite academics. Her sister, Monica, recently graduated from Brown University, where she competed in the pole vault for the Bears’ track and field team.
According to a 2011 profile in the Morning Call of Allentown, Pennsylvania, Monica Pechanec settled on pole vaulting after an elbow injury derailed her gymnastics career and ear infections made a foray into diving short-lived.
Monica had been homeschooled until the Pechanecs moved from to Phillipsburg, a New Jersey town on the Pennsylvania border, and attended Notre Dame High School across the state line in Easton. At Notre Dame, she made her way into an elite pole vaulter.
From the Morning Call:
Pechanec is the area’s best female vaulter, with an area (and career) best of 12 feet.
She has dreams of a PIAA medal and has her sights set on a college vaulting career at Brown.
It took a long time, but Pechanec appears to have found a sport she and her body loves.
“I don’t know why I started pole vaulting,” she said. “It seemed like fun.”
5. Pechanec Is Getting Her MBA From Indiana University
According to her LinkedIn profile, Pechanec has had a wealth of experience in her short career, including a stint at NASA. She worked there from May 2013- August 2013 as an intern at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where she worked on research, design and CAD development at the Mars-Transit Deep Space Habitat.
While at Stanford in 2011, she worked for five months as a design intern at Chegg Inc., a California-based company that specializes in online text book rentals.
More recently, Pechanec was involved with USA Gymnastics. She worked for over a year as a Program Coordinator, involved in some of the nation’s biggest gymnastics events.
Pechanec has been working as an Associate Producer for NBC Sports and ESPN for 2 years now while seeking her MBA at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Her tentative graduation date is in 2017.