March 19, 2002
Q: What were some of your initial goals coming into this year after being a co-head coach last year?
A: Fortunately, (former head coach) Becky Switzer left me with the reigns of a very successful team. We had all the right stuff. It was easy to set some goals that were common to what I wanted to accomplish with any team.
My first goal this year was to improve our academic performance. I really felt like we had an extremely intelligent team, and we were not quite performing to our capabilities. We did upgrade as a team this season, and we're now one of the top six teams on campus. I've very proud of that accomplishment.
My second goal was to do better than we did last year. We added a few team members and added a little depth as well. We had such a good year last year and with most of the team returning, I felt that we could do better than 10th place in the nation. I feel very confident we're right on track to beat that record this year.
My third goal was to have more fun. I felt like last year, as my first year, it was harder to get established as a co-head coach. I didn't change a lot of things that Becky had done because she was successful. There were a few key elements of dedication and hard work that I wanted to improve upon, and I think we did that. This year I needed to get the girls' confidence in me. I needed their belief in me to be significantly greater than last year if we were going to go further. I think that happened right off the bat because I participated in Boot Camp, our preseason conditioning program. I was up at 6 a.m. running the ramps with them, and I think I showed them that we're going to do this together. We changed our team motto to "Together We Can," and I think that has been indicative of our season.
Q: Where do you think this program will be in the next couple of years?
A: I believe that Oklahoma will be one of the top three teams in the country, year in and year out, eventually. My initial goal was to get it there, to be able to lead a group of athletes to the national championships every year. There's a dynasty of teams that are at the NCAAs every year, and there's a specific formula that they go by that works for them. I think it could work for OU as well. I have been fortunate to work with really good athletes in my career and great assistant coaches, not only in my Olympic experience, but also in my collegiate coaching. I have been able to assemble one of the best coaching staffs for a collegiate program. I think with those elements in place, we'll continually be one of the top six programs in the country, and hopefully one of the top three.
Q: How do you think the newcomers will make an impact on next year's team?
A: We lose three senior and we have signed four athletes so far. It will be hard to replace Mariana Goncalves, who is ranked No. 3 in the country in the all-around, with a freshman. Regardless, I think our number one strength will be our youth. The freshman will equal our veterans when it comes to numbers. Having a young team will also add some inexperience, but all these girls are hungry and they have a tremendous amount of potential that is going to be developed by this coaching staff. I don't think these girls have peaked and that's what I was looking for.
Q: Who do you think is the standout on this year's team?
A:It's no question that Mariana Goncalves is the star of this team. She is certainly a leader, but I didn't know if she could actually become the star. That is something that comes from within. She has had the talent, desire and ability, but never put it all together until this year. I challenged her last year and asked her when she was going to win an all-around. This year she has been doing that week in and week out. It has been refreshing, and it has been what this team needed. You've got to have a couple of athletes that can not only hit their routines flawlessly, but also have the skills to get the 9.95 or the 10.0. Our team has a one-two punch with Mariana Goncalves and Kasie Tamayo. Kasie has really stepped up and has been our most consistent performer.
Q: Do you feel there's anything unique about your team this year?
A: It's just amazing how quickly they could turn around their dedication level and be committed to something. They haven't made it to nationals in over a decade and all of the sudden in one year they turn it around and make the national championships, and the very next year they look like one of the top teams in the country. That has been surprising. The refreshing thing to see is that the same group of athletes did this together. I know the athletes feel like there is a push for us to do well, we've got wind in our sail.
Q: Where do you see this team going in the postseason?
A: There's no doubt in my mind we have one of the best teams in the country. We're consistent, competitive and we have avenged our loss to Arizona at the beginning of the season. The only team I feel we have really lost to was Georgia. We gave UGA a run in Athens, and I feel we can compete with anybody. I really expect OU to make the finals at nationals. I believe that this team has all the right components to do that. They have leadership, balance and great competition experience. Everyone has been stepping up and doing a new skill this year. I feel that's what it takes to be a great team. We've got two top 10 all-arounders, two girls with world championship experience, two very talented freshmen and a transfer student that is doing things she never realized she could do. We have yet to put together our very best meet, and I think that's going to come in the next few weeks. I fell that either we will win the Big 12s, the regional championships or the first round at nationals and compete at the highest level possible.