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Women Enter Regional with Big Expectations
April 07, 2005

NORMAN, Okla. The University of Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team will travel to Durham, New Hampshire, for its NCAA regional competition Saturday, April 9.

The 2005 National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships regional selections announced Monday paired No. 2-seeded Oklahoma with No. 1-seed LSU, No. 3-seed Arkansas, No. 4-seed and host New Hampshire, No. 5-seed Rutgers and No. 6-seed Pittsburgh in the Northeast Region.

NORTHEAST REGIONAL FAST FACTS
Who:
LSU, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Rutgers, Pittsburgh
Where: Whittemore Center - Durham, N.H.
When: Saturday, April 6, 6 p.m. EDT
Tickets: $10 Adults/$5 Children
Whittemore Center Box Office - (603) 868-7300
TV: CN8 (Comcast New England) - Sunday, April 17, 9 p.m. EDT
(Tape-Delay Webcast also available at CN8.tv)

Despite a usual trip West this time of year, the Sooners won’t be on unfamiliar territory. OU head coach Steve Nunno, a University of Massachusetts alumnus, lived in New England for a decade and is very familiar with the New Hampshire program.

“UMass dropped its program, so UNH is the only show in town,” Nunno said. “Because of that, they have been able to capitalize on recruiting and have built a good program. I am very good friends with their coaches and have been for a long time.  In fact, I attended (UNH associate head coach) Ed Datti’s junior club.”

LSU also joins OU in Durham. The Tigers and Sooners met once during the regular season at a meet in Tulsa with LSU winning the match, 197.85-195.75.

“On are best day we are as good as LSU,” Nunno continued. “We’re not gunning for second place. We’re not going to nationals just to be there.  We want to be a factor and I believe with this team we can.

“The SEC is very strong. LSU probably has the best team it has ever had and Arkansas is a great, young program.”

Arkansas’ gymnastics team, in its third year of existence, is making its second consecutive regional appearance. OU and Arkansas have never met.

Six teams, five all-around competitors (who are not on a qualifying team) and one individual event specialist per event were named to each of the six regions. The top two teams and the top two all-around competitors (who are not on an advancing team) from each regional will receive an automatic berth to the national championships in Auburn, Alabama, April 21-23, hosted by Auburn University.

In addition, the event winners at the regional championships will advance to the national championships (in that event only) if they are not part of a qualifying team or the all-around qualifiers.

The Sooners are 15-5 and ranked tenth in the nation. OU finished third at the Big 12 Championships last weekend. The Sooners led through two rotations, but counted two falls on beam and dropped to fourth.

Coincidentally, OU begins on beam at the Northeast Regional.

“I think [starting on beam] is what we need to prepare for nationals,” Nunno said. “We’ve never been skittish of the beam and, until the conference meet, it was one of our best events. I think once we get this first rotation over with, we’ll be back to fun gymnastics’, but it will all be serious. Things mean too much at this point.”

Last season, the Sooners won the West Region as a No. 3 seed. Oklahoma scored 197.1 points to defeat Alabama (196.9), Oregon State (196.85), Boise State (195.275), California (195.175) and Cal State-Fullerton (193.0).

"We are looking forward to the trip, but this is all business,” Nunno finished. “We were hit over the head with a brick at Big 12s and since then we’ve had our noses to the grindstone.”

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