Jan. 4, 2003
For the first time in the history of the Oklahoma women's gymnastics program the Sooners will begin the season on national television. OU begins with the Super Six, which will be held in Athens, Ga. and broadcast on ESPN. The other five teams in the meet are defending national champion Alabama, Georgia, Penn State, Florida and Nebraska.
"The Super Six will give our team an early indication of where we stand for the season," said OU Head Coach Steve Nunno. "It will also allow our team to work through the jitters of a big meet at the beginning of the season. It will be a good test and give us confidence down the road when we face similar situations. We hope to put ourselves on the map nationally right from the start."
Alabama won the national title last season, Georgia finished second, Nebraska fifth, Florida 10th and Penn State 32nd, which gives the Sooners a chance to make a statement at the season's outset.
Oklahoma welcomes seven new gymnasts into the fold this season after losing Big 12 Gymnast of the Year Marianna Goncalves in 2002. Leading the 2003 newcomers is Kristin Cox, a Memphis, Tenn., native who brings impressive credentials.
"Kristin Cox was the icing on the cake for this recruiting class," said Nunno. "She was the elite level gymnast we needed to bring this program to a new level."
Nicole Gause, transferred to OU from Arizona State after competing as a freshman for the Sun Devils in 2002. Gause is a former Texas State Level 10 Champion whose collegiate experience will be called upon with this young squad.
Freshman Tara Anderson followed Gause and moved to Oklahoma from her hometown of Phoenix, Ariz. Anderson has won the Arizona State Title the last four years.
Texan Meredith Fricke, a two time junior national team member, will add to the Sooners' depth on beam and floor.
Tampa, Fla., native Kelly Haggerty has been around big-time gymnastics her entire life and has similar skills to match. Haggerty specializes on the beam and floor and could have a major impact on the team in those events this season.
Katie Hostler, a St. Louis, Mo., native, is the most explosive and powerful of the newcomers. Her talents translate well to the floor and vault where she be a staple of the Sooner lineup this season.
Melissa Smith, a King, N.C., native, is a the daughter of a professional race car driver. Unfortunately her Sooner career won't be starting too fast, as she is still recovering from a series of wrist injuries and subsequent surgeries. Smith was second at USA Junior Nationals in 2001 and once she is healthy, will be one of the most talented gymnasts on the squad.
"I have been excited about this class since they first signed with OU," said Nunno. "They all bring tremendous skills to the table and they make us a very deep team. This season, they will provide depth to a talented squad and as they learn the college game they will each have an important role."
OU's returning class is highlighted by the team captains. Patricia Aoki and Leah Mueller were voted to the position by their teammates and will be expected to lead both in and outside of the gym.
Aoki is Oklahoma's most consistent all-around performer and will attempt to fill the shoes of former Brazilian teammate Marianna Goncalves.
Mueller collected two perfect 10s on the vault last season. Now she is healthy and adds the bars and beam to an already impressive arsenal.
Senior Christy Gerard transferred from George Washington and has become one of the Sooners' best on floor and beam.
Junior Kasie Tamayo is the most talented gymnast on the Sooner squad and should contend for the Big 12 all-around title.
Sophomore Allison Landis improved more than any other gymnast since last season and could be an All-American on bars and beam.
Sophomore Erin Labarr is a former walk-on who earned a scholarship and will earn national attention on many events this season.
The Big 12
As usual the Big 12 will be one of the most competitive conferences in the country. Last season Nebraska finished fifth, Iowa St. was 16th and Missouri was 17th, which means the road to the Big 12 title will be challenging. OU will have its working cut out for them if they want to knock off defending champion Nebraska.
The highlight of the conference schedule will be a road trip to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have won 43 consecutive home meets and could extend the streak to 44 before OU comes to town.
Head Coach Steve Nunno saw the Oklahoma women's gymnastics team finish 13th in 2002. This year it hopes to build on that momentum by beating the best programs in the country.
"I think the 2003 schedule is the toughest in the history of this program," said Nunno.
The Sooners face eight of the top 11 teams from last season, and 11 of the top 17.
The season begins Jan.11 in Athens, Ga., with the Super Six competition. In February, Oklahoma welcomes Penn State, Iowa (finished 2002 15th), and Missouri to the Lloyd Noble Center on consecutive Friday's, beginning Feb. 7.
Another highlight of the 2003 schedule is a late trip to California to take on perennial powerhouses UCLA (March 16) and Stanford (March 21). The Big 12 championship gets underway March 29 at Missouri.
"If we put everything together this season we could be in the NCAA Championship Super Six," said Nunno. "That is our goal, to begin the season in the Super Six and end the season on national television in the NCAA Finals."