The 2006 Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team has arguably its most talented squad in program history. Head coach Steve Nunno has assembled a team with excellent senior leadership and a solid core of juniors, sophomores and freshmen. The Sooners face a challenging schedule and will compete against some of the best teams in the nation. OU will face four teams ranked in the top 10 before heading to Lincoln, Neb., on March 25 for the Big 12 Championship.
Despite the loss of 2005 Big 12 Gymnast of the Year, Erin LaBarr, to graduation, the Sooners will have plenty of talent to fill her void. Nunno’s 2006 team will feature nine letterwinners from last year’s team that made the program’s fifth appearance at the NCAA Championships. Four newcomers also highlight the 2006 squad including freshman sensation Haley DeProspero and UCLA transfer Lori Winn. Both gymnasts will add excellent depth to the roster and will look to have an immediate impact for the Sooners.
Oklahoma finished the 2005 season with 19-17 record and a 12th place finish at the NCAA Championships. OU will look to improve on this mark and hope to make it back to their third consecutive NCAA Championship appearance.
The Oklahoma Sooners boast three seniors on this year’s team. Kristen Cox, Tara Anderson and Coral Borda will all bring valuable experience to the team.
Anderson is coming back from an injury sustained last year and will look to return to competition this season. She provides strength for the team on bars and beam.
Cox was one of the Sooners’ most consistent performers last season and set career bests on the bars (9.85), beam (9.825) and floor (9.925). She will look to compete in the all-around.
Borda competed on beam at every meet until suffering an ankle sprain in practice during the final week of the regular season. She returned to the lineup at the NCAA Northeast Regional on vault, scoring a 9.55. She brings an international flair to the team and adds great leadership.
Head coach Steve Nunno believes his seniors will provide leadership and motivation to the team. Cox was named co-captain with junior Tiffany Willin for the 2006 squad.
“This senior group will provide great leadership for the team. They are all great students in the classroom and will be able to motivate their teammates to excel,” said coach Nunno. “I believe there is more leadership out of this group than any group I have coached.”
The Oklahoma roster will include four talented and experienced juniors. Brittany Koncak-Schumann, Tiffany Willin, Ashley Cooney and Lori Winn will all look to make important contributions during the 2006 season.
Koncak-Schumann did not compete in all-around competition until the fourth meet of the season in 2005. She captured the all-around victory with a season-high 39.450 on Feb. 20 and also won on bars during the meet with a 9.85 routine. She can compete in all four events and brings much talent to the team in 2006.
Willin competed on vault and floor at every meet last year and recorded a season-high 9.925 against TWU, to win the event. Willin brings a positive attitude to the Sooners and will return this season on bars, vault and floor exercise. She will also be the co-captain with Kristen Cox.
Cooney was OU’s best all-around competitor at the national championships in 2005 after scoring a 39.200. She did not score below 9.8 on any of her vaults during the season and won four consecutive vault titles to begin the season. She will compete again in the all-around.
Winn is a transfer from UCLA and will provide strength and experience on all four events in 2006.
Coach Nunno is excited about his juniors and believes they are one of his most talented groups he has coached.
“Our juniors are the meat of the team. They are the most talented group of juniors I have ever coached,” said coach Nunno. “All four could compete in the all-around and will be the heart beat of the team.”
The sophomores on the Sooners’ roster will be challenged this year to compete and play an important role for the team. OU boasts six sophomores with Stephanie LoPiccolo, Meghan McWethy, Lisa Neal, Caitlin Hinkis, Jenny Baker and Kiara Redmond.
LoPiccolo has the most experience out of the group and was a beam specialist in 2005, competing on the apparatus at every meet. She recorded a career-high 9.875 at Iowa State, to place second. She has international experience and that will help the team in 2006.
Coach Nunno is excited to see what his sophomores will bring to the team and has challenged them to play important roles this season.
“Our sophomore group will be the most challenged to be able to compete this season. They are very talented and aggressive,” said coach Nuuno. “They need to prove themselves in order for us to continue our goal to make a super six bid.”
The freshmen on the 2006 squad have a chance to be one of the most talented groups coach Nunno has recruited. The Sooners have three freshmen this season in Haley DeProspero, Ashley Jackson and Gina Lesko.
DeProspero is from Mckinney, Texas, where she trained at the University of Gymnastics in Plano, Texas. She is a veteran of four U.S. Classics, with a best all-around finish of 10th in 2005, and three U.S. National Championships. She will compete in the all-around this season. Coach Nunno is excited about DeProspero and the impact she will have on the team.
“I think Haley will be the next great up and coming gymnast at OU. She has great talent and the ability to become a champion,” Nunno said.
Jackson is from Hudsonville, Mich., where she trained at Geddert’s Twistars. She tied for fifth at the 2004 Junior National Championships (Senior B) and recorded three top-10 finishes. Jackson will also compete in the all-around this season. Coach Nunno believes Jackson has a bright future at OU and brings a positive attitude to the team.
“Her presence provides power with grace. She has the highest vertical on the team and is very impressive to watch,” Nunno said.
Lesko is from Allen, Texas, where she trained at the University of Gymnastics in Plano, Texas. She placed ninth in the all-around at the 2004 Region 3 Level 9 Regionals. Coach Nunno says Lesko is a great student and athlete and will look for a spot on all four events this season.
The Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team will face one of their most challenging schedules in the history of the program with five home meets and seven road meets. OU will encounter four teams ranked in the top 10 before heading to the Big 12 Championship on March 25 in Lincoln, Neb.
The Sooners will be challenged early and often in the 2006 season. The Sooners travel to Cancun, Mexico, on Jan. 6 to compete in the first meet of the year. The third annual Cancun Classic will feature five teams, four of whom were ranked in the top 20 from last year. Defending national champion Georgia will be featured in the classic along with Stanford, Arizona, Denver and OU.
The Cancun Classic will give the Sooners the opportunity to see how they match up against some of the best talent in the nation. With the loss of Big 12 Gymnast of the Year Erin LaBarr, it will also allow Oklahoma to see who will step up and take the leadership role.
Head coach Steve Nunno is excited about opening up the season in Cancun and looks forward to answering many questions about his team.
“This first meet needs to be about us. We need to see what we look like as a team and get an idea of how we will compete,” said Nunno. “There are a lot of questions that will be answered in this first meet. That’s the excitement of the Cancun Classic.”
The Sooners won the 2005 Cancun Classic, posting a team score of 195.9 to defeat Brigham Young (194.325), George Washington (191.625) and Gustavus Adolphus (175.800). It was a significant improvement from the 2004 competition where the Sooners finished third.
Following the Cancun Classic, the Sooners will then have a week off from competition before hosting their first home meet against Southern Utah on Jan. 20.
Highlighting the 2006 slate will be a Feb. 12 trip to Athens, Ga., to face Southeastern Conference perennial powerhouse and No. 1 ranked Georgia for the second time in the season. The Bulldogs are the reigning national champions. Two weeks later, the Sooners will encounter another talented SEC team when they face No. 9 LSU on Feb. 24 in Baton Rouge, La.
“We are very excited about the upcoming season and competing in one of the most challenging schedules we have ever faced,” said Nunno. “We have one of the most talented teams we have seen in 20 years at OU. Our schedule will challenge us early and will allow us to learn a lot about what kind of team we have.”
The Big 12 Conference will be very challenging in 2006 with all four teams finishing in the top 15 last season. The Sooners will look to improve on their 1-2 conference record from last year.
Oklahoma will host both Nebraska (Feb. 4) and Iowa State (Feb. 10) in Big 12 Conference action. On Feb. 17, the Sooners travel to Columbia, Mo., to face Missouri and conclude conference competition.
“The Big 12 is the strongest it has ever been. Nebraska is traditionally the best team and Iowa State and Missouri always have talented teams,” said coach Nunno. “Our conference is as tough as any in the country and I’m looking forward to a challenging conference schedule.”
Nebraska claimed its seventh overall Big 12 women’s gymnastics title by winning the crown in 2005. The fourth-ranked Huskers regained their crown after OU took home its first title in 2004. ISU is the only other team to claim the title with a championship in 2000.
The Big 12 Conference Championship will be hosted by Nebraska on March 25, in Lincoln, Neb.
OU’s final home meet will be on March 3 when Texas Woman’s University comes to Norman. The Sooners will have one last meet before postseason, traveling to Kent, Ohio to face Kent State on March 17.
The 2005 NCAA Championships will be hosted by Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore., and will begin on April 20. The Sooners hope to make a third consecutive, sixth overall trip. OU finished 12th in 2005.