Jan. 11, 2003
ATHENS, Ga.- The Oklahoma women's gymnastics team opened the 2003 season with a sixth place finish in the fourth annual Super Six Challenge in front of a sellout crowd of 9,000, inside the Stegeman Coliseum in Athens Georgia.
"This was learning experience for us," said OU Head Coach Steve Nunno. "The freshmen were fantastic tonight. Only one freshman missed on a routine and that was because she (Melissa Smith) was thrown in there at the last minute. Our veterans were a little disappointing tonight but they will bounce back and carry this team the rest of the way."
Georgia (197.325) won the meet, followed by Nebraska (196.700), Florida (196.575), Alabama (196.000), and Penn State (194.375). Jeana Rice of Alabama won the all-around competition with a score 39.700. She was followed by Chelsa Byrd (39.600) of Georgia and Richelle Simpson of Nebraska (39.500). Aoki finished 11th in the all-around with a score of 38.800.
Oklahoma began the meet on the floor exercise after opening the afternoon with a bye during the first rotation. Freshman Meredith Fricke led the Sooners early, scoring a 9.900 on the floor exercise in her collegiate debut. In the end, the score would count as OU highest individual performance of the afternoon. Senior Patricia Aoki scored a 9.850 and freshman Katie Hostler scored 9.825.
"I was surprised that I led the team scoring wise," said Fricke. "Floor is my strongest event and I felt really good today. As a freshman you are not expected to contribute much. I just wanted to show the crowd, my coaches and my teammates what I could do."
On the next rotation OU was again led by a freshman, this time it was Hostler sticking her landing on vault and scoring a team-high 9.850. Fricke continued her solid debut with a 9.675 on the vault, while junior Kasie Tamayo rounded out the Sooners participation on the event with a 9.750.
Through two events the Sooners were in fifth place, with an overall score of 97.375 narrowly ahead of defending national champion Alabama (97.300).
Sophomore Erin Labarr scored a 9.825 on the uneven bars and senior Patricia Aoki recorded a 9.800. As a team, OU struggled on the uneven bars and was forced to count three falls. The overall event score of 47.175 dropped OU into sixth place after three events.
"The bye prior to bars really took us out of our groove," said Nunno. "The bars were a disaster for us tonight. Once again this is something we have to learn from. Layoffs between events are common and we have to carry our concentration over those breaks."
On the Sooners final event freshman Melissa Smith and Fricke turned in solid performances on thje beam with scores of 9.825 and 9.775, respectively. Junior Kasie Tamayo closed out the meet for OU with a personal meet high of 9.800.
I was happy to see the team bounce back and put up a very strong score on beam," said Nunno. "They didn't give up and they bounced back from their worst event of the night."
The meet marked Georgia Head Coach Suzanne Yoculan's 20th year as the head of the Gym Dogs program. Yoculan was honored prior to the meet for her career accomplishments, including five national championships and three NCAA Coach of the Year awards.
The Super Six Challenge will be held at the University of Alabama in 2004.
The meet will air on ESPN Feb. 13 at 3:30 p.m.
OU returns to competition Friday, Jan. 19, when they travel to Texas Woman's University for a 7 p.m. meet. The Sooners open the home slate on Sunday, Jan. 21, when Boise State and Utah State battle OU inside the Lloyd Noble Center at 2 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children.