Sooners at NCAA National Championship

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
APRIL 07, 2005

NORMAN, Okla. -- The No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners are in West Point, New York, to compete for their third national championship in four years.  The 2005 NCAA National Championship is being held in the Christl Arena, located in the Holleder Center on the campus of the United States Military Academy. 

Competition begins today, Thursday, April 7, with the national qualifier, consisting of 12 previously qualified teams competing in two sessions with six teams apiece.  Session one was completed earlier today with Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.  Session two, which includes the Sooners and No. 2 Illinois, will begin at 6 p.m. (CST).  The Sooners will sit out the first rotation, before starting on the floor exercise in the second rotation.

Click Here for live scoring from the competition which will be provided by, the official website for NCAA sports.  

ESPN2 will be broadcasting the competition on tape delay on Wednesday, April 13 at  4 p.m.

The top three teams from each session will advance to the 2005 NCAA Team Finals on Friday, April 8, beginning at 6 p.m. (CST).  Individual event finals will be held on Saturday, April 9, beginning at 6 p.m. (CST).  Competitors for individual event finals will be determined by results from Friday night's team finals.

NCAA Championship Central for ticket information or call 1-877-TIX-ARMY.

The Sooners come into the national championships having won 10 consecutive meets.  Since dropping the team's only loss of the season, Jan. 22 at Michigan, OU has rebounded nicely posting four of the top 25 all-time NCAA scores in the following meets.

"At this point, we are the healthiest we’ve been all season," said OU head coach Mark Williams.  "After our performance at conference championship, I think we are peaking at the right time.  All we have left now is the prelims and the finals and we will have no problem getting motivated for that." 

In the 2004 NCAA Championships, OU finished a close second behind Penn State (223.350-222.300).  Prior to that, the Sooners had won two straight national championships, defeating rival Ohio State on both occasions.

Individually, the Sooners are led by freshman sensation Jonathan Horton, who is currently ranked in the top four in four different events, including No. 1 in the all-around.  Horton, who has broken individual school records in the all-around and on the floor exercise, comes into the meet on the heels of a MPSF individual championship on the still rings and all-around.

"He has been amazing all year," added Williams.  "It is very special for a freshman to come in and win a conference championship.  He is in a position to earn a couple of All-America honors and help our team challenge for the national championship.  There is no question that he has been the most solid for us all year."

Of the 11 other teams in the championship, the Sooners have recorded a 9-1 mark against seven of those teams, with the only loss coming to Michigan. 

Williams Honored as Conference's Best Coach, Again
For the fifth time in his six years as head coach at Oklahoma, Mark Williams was named the MPSF Coach of the Year at the 2005 MPSF Championships, March 25-26, in Norman, Okla.  The award, voted on by fellow MPSF coaches, was announced on March 26, prior to the start of the MPSF Event Finals.  California's Graham Ackerman was named the 2005 MPSF Gymnast of the Year.

Triple H
The Sooner trio of David Henderson, Jamie Henderson and Jonathan Horton gave OU its three individual conference titles at the MPSF Event Finals championships on March 26 in Norman, Okla. 

David Henderson recorded a season-high 9.625 en route to taking the vault championship.  David's younger brother, Jamie also posted a 9.625 on the pommel horse to take first in the event.  The Henderson brothers also picked up respective third place finishes as well.  David on the high bar (9.45) and Jamie on the rings (9.7).  It was a nice change of pace for the brother duo who did not fare well at last year's conference meet.

Phenom Jonathan Horton took first on the still rings by tying his school record 9.825.  It was the third time this season that Horton has posted the top score on the apparatus.

“Jamie put together a solid performance on the pommel horse, David had his best vault of the season and Horton was awesome again,” said Oklahoma head coach Mark Williams.  “I think Jonathan’s performance on the rings was the best individual routine of the day."

MPSF Team Recap
The No. 2-ranked Oklahoma men’s gymnastics scored a school record 225.650 points in rolling to its sixth Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship last Friday night, March 25, at the Lloyd Noble Center.  Including Big Eight competition, it marked the 14th all-time conference crown for the Sooners.

OU’s scoring total was the second-highest in NCAA history to Ohio State’s 226.900 set earlier this year. 

California was second in Friday night’s competition at 219.725, followed by Stanford 217.925, Nebraska 215.375 and Air Force 197.200.

“I like the way our team showed up tonight on the first event,” said OU head coach Mark Williams.  “It wasn’t our highest score on the vault this season, but it was definitely our best overall performance in that event.

“I think out of the 36 routines tonight we only had two mistakes.  That’s a solid hit percentage and I am very pleased with that.  If we can perform with the same poise and enthusiasm that we did tonight at the NCAA Championships in two weeks I definitely like our chances.”

Oklahoma freshman Jonathan Horton captured the individual all-around title with a score of 56.475, the top score in school history.

“I have to give a lot of credit to Jonathan,” Williams said.  “In all my years of competing against Oklahoma and coaching for Oklahoma I can’t remember a freshman, not even Bart Conner, that came in an performed like he did to win the all-around.”

Horton called Friday night his best performance as a gymnast.

“Being a freshman and winning the conference all-around was huge for me,” he said.  “I was so pumped going into the last event and knowing that it was my best event.  I knew that I could hit my ring routine and I had excitement flowing through my veins.  This was my best meet ever.”

OU set team school records in the high bar and floor exercise with scores of 225.650 and 37.575, respectively.  Josh Gore tied the school individual record in the pommel horse with a score of 9.725.

In the high bar, five of the six Sooner competitors scored at least 9.50.  David Henderson led the charge with a mark of 9.675.  James Myers and Josh Gore both scored 9.55.

On the floor, Horton posted the top mark at 9.675.  Jacob Messina turned in a 9.475.

“Our high bar and floor were awesome tonight,” said Williams.  “The pommel horse was also another key event.”

Typically, OU was strong on the rings.  The team score was 38.150.  That performance was highlighted by a 9.775 from Henderson.

Conference Domination
When the Sooners posted their school record 225.650 on March 25 at the MPSF Team Finals, they secured their sixth MPSF title and 14th all-time conference crown, including Big Eight competition. 

The Sooners had won five straight MPSF team titles from 1999-2003.  The streak was broken in 2004 by the University of California.  Prior to that, OU earned eight Big 8 titles, the last coming in 1996.

Revisiting NCAA 2004
In 2004, the Sooners were going for their third straight NCAA national title, but fell short to champion Penn State.  The Sooners did finish as the nation's runner-up for the second time under head coach Mark Williams. 

After a second straight undefeated regular season (14-0), the Sooners finished 2004 with a 24-4 record.  OU produced the most All-America honors (8) out of all 12 participating teams.

The X-Factor
Since arriving this season, freshman Jonathan Horton has consistently been at the top of the standings for the Sooners.  In his first meet as a Sooner, the Rocky Mountain Open, Horton started out strong by winning the floor exercise (9.400) and the parallel bars (9.050). 

Since then Horton has not looked back, picking up 16 first-place finishes, along with beating former OU gymnast Jock Steven's school record on the floor exercise with a 9.825 in the win over Iowa.  He then followed up that performance by breaking former OU gymnast Daniel Furney's all-around record with a 56.475 in the MPSF Championship.  The next day, Horton finished first on the still rings by tying his career high of 9.825. 

Earning High Marks
Since starting the season as the fourth best team on the high bar, the Sooners found themselves at No. 1 in the Feb. 14 rankings, the week after recording a then-season high 38.100 versus Nebraska on Feb. 13.  The Sooners only have two losses on the high bar, against Michigan and Iowa.  OU tied the current No. 1 high bar team, Ohio State, when the two met in Norman on March 5.  The Sooners have dropped one spot to No. 2 since the those rankings were released.

OU then recorded the meet's highest score at the MPSF Championship on March 25 with an Oklahoma school record 38.325.  It was a complete team effort as five finished in the top seven at the meet.

Individually, the Sooners have four different competitors on the apparatus in the GymInfo top 25 polls led by senior David Henderson at No. 6 and junior Jamie Henderson at No. 7 .  David Henderson has the Sooners highest mark on the high bar this year with a 9.675 in the MPSF Championship on March 25.

Horton Named to U.S. National Team
On Saturday, Feb. 5, OU freshman gymnast Jonathan Horton was one of nine individuals selected to the 2005 U.S. Men’s Senior National Team.  The freshman competed on the floor exercise and the vault, a day after qualifying for the two events in Friday’s all-around competitions.  He tied for first on the floor (8.95) and fourth on the vault (8.975) to earn his spot for the second-consecutive year as one of the nation’s top gymnasts.

“His performance in the event finals secured his position on the team after Friday night’s all-around,” said OU head coach Mark Williams after the meet.  “Jonathan is a young, up-and-comer.  He is very aggressive in his routines and he could be the future of USA Gymnastics.”

During the all-around competition, Horton finished eighth with a score of 51.181 and qualified for the finals on the floor exercise and the vault by finishing in the top eight.  The next national competition for Horton will be the 2005 Visa Championships, August 10-13 in Indianapolis, Ind.  The event will determine national champions in respective events and who will represent the U.S. in international competitions.

This level of competition is not new to Horton, as he was a member of the U.S. Senior National Team with current OU teammate Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons and assistant coach Guard Young a year ago.

Horton competed in last year’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials and Visa U.S. Championships.  Prior to that experience, Horton was a member of the U.S. Junior National Team, winning the junior all-around at the U.S. Championships in 2002 and 2003.

"The Winter Cup is a great best competition and it was very well contested,” added Williams.  “There has recently been a change in the scoring and some athletes have adjusted and the scores reflect that.  This competition was a good indication for the championships in August.”

Sooner Notes
Mubarak Abdullah-Simmons- Set career high (9.3) on the rings in MPSF team finals.
Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons-  Broke own OU record on the parallel bars with a 9.55 in MPSF team finals.
Brian Carr- Looks to return to action at the NCAA Championship.
Kyle Fernandez-  Did not see action in MPSF Championship.
Michael Gehart- Did not see action in MPSF Championship.
Josh Gore- Tied Josh Landis' OU individual record (9.725) on the pommel horse in MPSF Event Finals.
David Henderson-  Took MPSF individual championship on the vault (9.625).
Jamie Henderson-  Took MPSF individual championship on the pommel horse (9.625)
Jonathan Horton- Took MPSF individual championship on the still rings (9.825)
David Iammatteo- Finished fifth (9.325) on the floor exercise in MPSF team finals.
Jacob Messina- Finished fourth (9.275) on the floor exercise in MPSF individual finals.
James Myers-  Tied career high on the floor exercise (9.050) in MPSF team finals.
Brian Trause-   Finished fifth (8.75) on the parallel bars in MPSF individual finals.
Joseph Weaver- Set career record (9.0) on the floor exercise in the MPSF team finals.

Erasing Names
Since arriving in Norman this fall, a duo of Sooner freshman has been responsible for erasing names in the OU record books.  Jonathan Horton has recorded all-time OU individual records on both the all-around (56.475) and the floor exercise (9.825). 

The other half of the duo is Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons.  One week after breaking the record on parallel bars against Iowa, Abduallah-Simmons broke his own score with a 9.55 in the MPSF team finals.

Gore-ing the Competition
Since starting the season at the Rocky Mountain Open with a disappointing score on the pommel horse (8.5) in the team competition, senior Josh Gore has not looked back.  He finished second the next day in the individual events final on the pommel (9.2) and has dominated in every meet since then.  Gore was also honored with a MPSF Gymnast of the Week award for the week of Jan. 31. 

Following the RMO, Gore took first on the pommel in each of the next three meets including his 9.7 performance (then a season high) versus Nebraska on Feb. 13.  The pommel horse first place streak ended against Nebraska on Feb. 20 though, when Gore finished second on the pommel (9.45), behind teammate Jamie Henderson. 

The senior from Pflugerville, Texas has also picked up eight first place finishes to go along with six second place finishes and three third place finishes on the season. 

In the MPSF Championship, Gore tied Josh Landis' school record on the pommel horse with a 9.725.  Gore just missed out picking up his second straight MPSF parallel bar championship, finishing second behind Cal's Tyler Block.

2005 Sooners in a Familiar Spot -- At The Top
In the March 25 MPSF Championships, OU posted a score of 225.650, the second highest in the nation this season and in NCAA history (under the current scoring system). 

Since the new scoring system’s inception in 2001 in college gymnastics (Federation de Internationale Gymnastics Code Scoring System), OU has dominated the top team scores around the nation.  OU currently owns the two of the four best tallies and five of the top 11 scores.  Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Stanford and Illinois are the only other members in the top 25. 

That trend could change soon as the FIG's scoring system is usually adjusted after an Olympic year.



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