March 24, 2001

In an impressive performance the host Sooners secured third place for the second-straight season at the Big 12 Championships, March 24 in Norman.

The Sooners notched a 196.7, their second-highest total of the season, to finish just behind Big 12 champs Nebraska (197.65) and Iowa State (197.05).

"I've never been this happy about finishing third in my life," co-head coach Steve Nunno said proudly. "I think we posted the eleventh-highest regional score in the nation. On our best day, that's about where we are among the country's top teams. We're not quite in the top ten yet, but we can give any other school a real run for their money."

The Sooners outstanding effort not only guaranteed they'd advance to the postseason for the fourth-straight year, but also moved them up a notch in the national rankings from 20th to 19th. "The teams that were ranked ahead of us [in the Big 12] beat us, but not by much," Nunno said. "We scored 49+ on each event and that's quite an accomplishment. We actually won floor as a team which, in a conference as tough as ours, is quite an accomplishment."

OU's third-place finish was bolstered by all-arounders Leticia Ishii (sophomore) and Kasie Tamayo (freshman). Ishii and Tamayo finished third and fourth, respectively, in the all-around behind Iowa State's Shelly Kringen and Sisset Huey. Ishii also finished fourth on floor with a 9.9.

"Leticia taking third in the all-around is just awesome," Nunno said. "She's been winning all-around titles left and right this year and she's probably the hardest worker we have on the team. She's so consistent it's almost impossible to rattle her."

Nunno was also proud of Tamayo, whom he calls "the future of OU."

"To perform like this as a freshman," he marveled, "is simply incredible. I think that Kasie is only get to better here at OU and serve as a real inspiration for the gymnasts we have coming in. She's already a real team leader, which is very rare in someone so young and basically inexperienced."

Junior Mariana Goncalves, who placed second on floor with a 9.925, would also have been on track to place in the all-around if her first rotation vault error could have been erased. "I honestly think Mariana would have won this meet if she hadn't sat down her vault," Nunno said. "She's a beautiful gymnast and has done great things for us all year but I think Mariana's best is yet to come."

Sophomore Patricia Aoki tied Goncalves for the floor silver, while freshman Carla DeMartini earned bronze on vault (9.85), an event she only started working midway through the 2001 season after undergoing preseason surgery on her foot. "Carla was a great surprise," Nunno said. "She hasn't vaulted for us all year, really, and then she goes out at Big 12s and earns third."

"I honestly wouldn't have been surprised if we won that Big 12 meet, the way we performed," Nunno said proudly. "It wasn't a perfect performance, we still have some room for improvement, but I think this proves we have a real shot at advancing to nationals."

The next stop in the Sooners' NCAA quest is the South Central Regional Championships in Lincoln, Nebraska, April 7.