Jan. 16, 2003
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After struggling in the Super Six challenge last weekend, the Oklahoma women's gymnastics team hopes to gain some momentum on the road at Texas Woman's University Friday, before opening the home slate with Utah State and Boise State Sunday. Friday's meet with the TWU Pioneers begins at 7 p.m. inside the Kitty Magee Arena. Texas Woman's University is ranked No. 38 in the current GymInfo poll, while the Sooners remain at No. 12.
"We want to redeem ourselves on bars this weekend," said OU head coach Steve Nunno. "We will field the same team because I know that they can do it. They were great leading into last weekend's meet and have been great since. All they need to do now is show their ability in an actual meet and build some confidence."
TWU lost its season opener Jan. 11 to Southern Utah by a score of 193.225 to 189.250. Comparatively, the Sooners outscored the Pioneers on three of the four events. TWU edged OU on the bars 47.625 to 47.175. Oklahoma was forced to record three falls on the bars last weekend. Luci Romberg (bars) and Dana Giametta (vault) of TWU each registered third place finishes with scores of 9.750 and 9.650, respectively.
OU leads the all-time series with TWU 38-3, including 16 consecutive victories. The Pioneers last defeated the Sooners in 1996, when the Becky Switzer led squad fell 190.375 to 189.375 on the Denton, Texas, campus.
Oklahoma begins the home schedule Sunday at 2 p.m. when Boise State and Utah State come to town. The first 300 fans in attendance will receive free OU women's gymnastics schedule magnets. Admission to the meet is $5 for adults and $2 for children. For more ticket information, call the OU athletics ticket office at (800) 456-GoOU.
While coach Nunno's squad will not be at full strength this weekend, the Sooners are inching their way towards capacity. Ukrainian native Karina Agafonova will likely compete on the floor and vault.
"I want to test Karina and see her competitive nature in an actual meet," said Nunno. "I also want to get her involved as a member of this team. Collegiate gymnastics is very different in the United States and I would like her to begin that assimilation."
Freshman Nicole Gause will also make her collegiate debut this weekend after traveling to the Super Six as an alternate. Gause will compete on the floor exercise.
"It was important to Nicole that she was ready to compete in Texas because she wanted to debut in her home state," said Nunno.
During last weekend's Super Six Challenge, Oklahoma was forced to count four falls, three on bars and one on vault. Prior to last weekend's meet the Sooners had never counted a fall in competition at the University of Georgia.
The Oklahoma women's gymnastics team opened the 2003 season with a sixth place finish (193.275) 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 their 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 flowed by Chelsa Byrd (39.600) of Georgia and Richelle Simpson of Nebraska (39.500). Patricia 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. Aoki scored a 9.850 and freshman Katie Hostler scored 9.825.
"I was surprised with 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.
On the Sooners' final event, freshman Melissa Smith and Fricke turned in solid performances 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."
Steve Nunno is one of the most decorated gymnastics coaches in the United States. Gymnasts from his Dynamo Club in Oklahoma City have won more national and international medals than any other club in the country. After working with junior and elite level gymnasts for the majority of his career, Nunno decided to take over the Oklahoma head coaching duties in 2002 and concentrate on the collegiate game.
During his two years at the helm of OU gymnastics, the program has reached its highest ever in-season ranking (No. 3) and finished the season ranked No. 10, another new high. During his two years as head coach, Nunno has complied a 37-17 record and a .687 winning percentage, which ranks second all-time at OU.
Regarded as a recruiting expert, Nunno is beginning to compete with perennial powerhouses Georgia, Alabama and UCLA. The likes of Kristin Cox and 2003 signee Brittney Koncak chose the Sooners over defending national champion Alabama.
"It is my goal to win a national championship here and the process has begun. We have the groundwork in place to be the best," said Nunno.