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Women's Gymnastics NCAA Championships Preview
April 15, 2004

2004 NCAA National Qualifier
Thursday, April 15, 2004
3 p.m. CST
Los Angeles, Calif. (Pauley Pavilion)

Teams:
No. 5 OKLAHOMA
No. 2 Georgia
No. 6 Florida
No. 9 Stanford
No. 11 Nebraska
No. 19 Iowa

Meet Coverage
Live stats will be provided on the UCLA website and can be accessed by clicking here. The meet will be televised as a tape-delay nationwide on CBS on Saturday, May 1, from 1-3 pm ET. Bonnie Bernstein and Olympic gold medalist Amanda Borden will call the action, with Tracy Wolfson serving as sideline reporter.

NCAA Qualifier Preview
The University of Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team will make its fourth NCAA National Championship appearance April 15-17 in Los Angeles, Calif., at Pauley Pavilion at UCLA.  Among the twelve teams in the field, OU is the only team that was not a participant in last year's NCAA Championship.

The No. 5 Sooners will participate in session I on Thursday, April 15 at 3 p.m., (CST) along with No. 2 Georgia, No. 6 Florida, No. 9 Stanford, No. 11 Nebraska and No. 19 Iowa.  OU has faced all five teams in its session, holding a record of 2-5 against them this season. 

The top three teams will advance onto the “Super Six” on Friday, April 16 at 9 p.m., (CST) against the top three teams from session II.  The schools in the second session include No. 1 Utah, No. 3 LSU, No. 4 UCLA, No. 7 Alabama, No. 10 Arizona State and No. 11 Michigan.  Saturday features the event finals with the top eight from both of Thursday’s sessions (including ties) competing for individual NCAA Championships at 9 p.m. (CST).

Complete Release | 2004 Statistics

“The main thing going into this competition is that we know what to expect because we have met all these teams this season,” said Oklahoma head coach Steve Nunno. “The challenging schedule has paid off and this team has come a long way throughout this season.  That is especially true over the last couple of meets where you can tell they are more comfortable competing.”

OU has only made three NCAA Championship appearances prior to the 2004 season with the last one coming in 2001 during Nunno’s first season.  The other two representations occurred in 1989 and 1985 with the ninth place finish during the 1989 season as the school’s best finish.

“Ultimately, how we finish on April 15 comes down to us hitting all our routines because that is the key to advancing to the next day,” Nunno said.  The one difference between this team and my past squads is that we have a wind in our sail after winning the past two meets (Big 12 and Regionals) and the girls’ confidence is high. 

“This year we are not just happy to be at nationals, we have a goal of doing what no other team in the program’s history has done.  All the pieces are in place, this team has the depth that has been lacking in recent years and the team is confident in their ability to succeed.”

The Sooners enter the meet with the season's highest ranking at No. 5.  OU was among only six schools to score a 197 or higher in its respective regional.

In its 24th year of existence, the Sooners have made 21 postseason appearances, but until last weekend at Oregon State, OU had failed to capture a first place finish at a NCAA Regional. 

2004 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS SCHEDULE
All times PST
*Thursday, April 15 (Qualifiers)
Session I,  1 p.m.
Session II, 7 p.m.

*Friday, April 16 (Team Finals)
NCAA Championships, 7 p.m.

*Saturday, April 17 (Event Finals)
Individual NCAA Championships (Top eight from Thursday's sessions), 7 p.m.

clicking here for more information on the 2004 NCAA Championship meet hosted by UCLA.

TALE OF THE TAPE
Below is a comparison of how the teams in the NCAA Championships compare in each event, as ranked by the GymInfo Polls.  All rankings except for overall team ranking are from March 22, as individual and team event rankings are not released again until after the championships.  The overall team ranking is based on the team's score at their respective NCAA Regional meet as released on April 5.  OU, Georgia, Florida, Stanford, Nebraska and Iowa will compete in session I and the breakdown can be viewed by clicking here

The session II participants (Utah, LSU, UCLA, Alabama, Arizona State and Michigan) can be viewed here

NCAA REGIONAL CHAMPS
The University of Oklahoma competed in the NCAA West Regional hosted by Oregon State on Saturday, April 3, and won the regional with a 197.100 score.   Behind the No. 15 Sooners was No. 3 Alabama (196.900), No. 10 Oregon State (196.850), Boise State (195.275), California-Berkeley (195.175) and Cal-State Fullerton (193.000). 

The top two teams from the six regions qualify for the 2004 NCAA Championship meet and those 12 teams are cut down to the “Super Six” that compete for the NCAA Title.

“We had an outstanding meet and were on absolute fire hitting 23 out of 24 routines,” said Oklahoma head coach Steve Nunno.  “This was our best performance of the season, especially on beam.  We had a fantastic meet and took care of our own business by staying focused.”

The Sooners distanced themselves from the competition by outscoring the field on the uneven bars (49.150) and balance beam (49.425).  OU also scored a 49.175 on vault and a 49.350 on the floor exercise.

“This is probably the best team I have had here at OU,” added Nunno. “We showed how good we are by winning the Big 12 and reinforced that tonight.   Winning the conference gave us a lot of confidence and we feel comfortable as a team.  The girls are having fun and this team has a chemistry that I have never seen in my years at OU.  I am extremely proud of how this team because they have really picked it up in the last two meets.”

OU started off on uneven bars and sat in first place after the first rotation with a 49.150, tied with Alabama.  Senior co-captain Kasie Tamayo was the Sooners’ highest performer with a 9.900.  Tamayo won the event and finished fourth in the all-around with a 39.475. 

Freshman Ashley Cooney performed solid on the balance beam (OU’s second event) winning the event with a career-high 9.950.  Cooney also positioned herself in second place in the all-around with a 39.525 (career-high).  Cooney was also third on the floor with a 9.900, joined by teammate Erin LaBarr.  The Sooners’ 49.425 on the beam was a season-high. 

“This is something really special because this program has never gone in as a regional champion,” added Nunno.  “I told the team tonight that we can match up with anyone.  In order to be successful, all we have to do is get in our zone and just do our thing.  This is what I was hired to do and now our next goal is to make it into the Super Six and I think this team is capable of that.”

TAMAYO IS BIG 12 CONFERENCE'S BESTIMAGE
Senior co-captain Kasie Tamayo dominated at the 2004 Big 12 Championships accomplishing what few Sooners have after winning the Gymnast of the Year honors and three individual conference championships.  Tamayo became just the second Sooner in school history to win more than two conference championships and joins Kelly Garrison (four-time national champion) who last did it in 1988.  That year she swept the event titles for the second straight year.  Tamayo is the first Sooner since Mariana Goncalves to win the conference honor, Goncalves was honored in the 2002 season.

Click on the following links to view Tamayo's recent and past accomplishments:
2004 Accomplishments/Statistics | Tamayo Bio

SOONERS LAND FOUR ON ACADEMIC ALL-BIG 12 FIRST TEAM
The University of Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team landed four members on the Academic All-Big 12 First Team. Senior Leah Mueller earned her fourth such honor, while sophomores Katie Hostler, Melissa Smith and Tara Anderson all collected their first such accolade.  OU was second behind Nebraska, which led the conference with five first-team selections. 

Mueller, a human relations major, was the only gymnast in the Big 12 to maintain a perfect 4.00 grade point average in 2004.  She has competed primarily on uneven bars for the past two seasons.  A redshirt her freshman year, Mueller has been on the All-Big 12 Academic Team all four years of competition.

A native of St. Charles, Mo., Hostler is studying health and sports science and has competed in every meet this season primarily on the floor exercise and vault.

Anderson has been competing on three events this season, the uneven bars, balance beam and vault.   The Phoenix, Ariz., native is an elementary education major.

Finally, Smith is another two-event competitor for the Sooners performing on the balance beam and uneven bars.  She is a business major and came to OU from King, N.C.

TOP TEN AT REGIONALS
The Sooners placed 17 in the top ten during the 2004 NCAA West Regional.  That was more than Alabama (16) and Oregon State (11).  Over half of those (10) finished in the top five.  Freshman Ashley Cooney, junior Erin LaBarr and senior Kasie Tamayo made OU the only team to place three all-arounders in the top ten at the regional meet.

NCAA HISTORY
In its 24th year, OU has enjoyed 21 appearances in the postseason past the conference meet.  Among those 21 appearances are three trips to the NCAA Nationals that were all under former head coach Becky Switzer.  However, in her last year Switzer was co-head coach with Steve Nunno.  Nunno enjoyed the trip to nationals in his first year as head coach in 2001. 

The Sooners highest finish at nationals came in 1989 when they finished ninth after a 18-6 season.  Although the Sooners to not have a National Championship yet, they do have one of the most decorated collegiate gymnasts in their record books.  In 1987 and 1988, All-American Kelly Garrison dominated winning the all-around National Championship both years and the uneven bars and balance beam in 1988.

Current Sooner Kasie Tamayo is the first gymnast at OU since Garrison to enjoy some of that success.  At the 2004 Big 12 Championships, Tamayo won three events and the last time a Sooner achieved that was by Garrison when she swept the events in 1987 and 1988.

Tamayo has one appearance at nationals competing as an individual when she scored a 39.250 in the all-around in 2002.  Tamayo and Leah Mueller are the only Sooners to see action at the NCAA Championship meet (2001).

BIG 12 HISTORY
Prior to the start of the Big 12, Oklahoma had captured five Big 8 titles with the last one coming in 1993 under Becky Switzer.  Last season, the Sooners enjoyed their highest finish under head coach Steve Nunno, placing second behind Nebraska.

Nunno and Switzer are the only OU coaches to win a women's gymnastics conference championship.  Switzer was at the helm during all five Big 8 Championship runs.    In addition to the six conference championships, OU has finished second on nine other occasions in 24 years of competition.

Only one of the Sooners' conference championship teams advanced on to Nationals after winning the conference title.  The 1985 Oklahoma team, in Switzer's second year, finished 10th at the NCAA Nationals.  

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OKLAHOMA HEAD COACH STEVE NUNNO
Steve Nunno has enjoyed success at the collegiate level in just his fourth season at the helm of the Sooner program.  After winning the 2004 Big 12 Championship, Nunno has now made one appearance to the NCAA Nationals and earned a conference championship.

"When I first came here I told the athletic director (Joe Castiglione) that my first goal was to win the Big 12 and then go to Nationals," said Nunno.  "After winning the conference this season I realized that I did that in reverse order but now we are again trying our best to reach the next step after regionals."

Two-time USA Olympic Coach Steve Nunno is one of the most successful gymnastics coaches in the United States.  His gymnasts have won more national and international medals than any other coach in the country.  Now at the helm of the University of Oklahoma, Coach Nunno has some lofty goals for his college team as well.

In his fourth year as head coach at OU, many of his gymnasts have already entered the record books. In addition, his Sooner squads have been consistently ranked in the top 10 during the regular season for the past two years.

Before the 2004 season, Nunno had said the following about this year's team:

“I really enjoy coaching the collegiate athletes. This year’s team is extremely talented and they are performing the skills that I’m used to coaching. We have an exciting but challenging schedule this year but I believe it could be our best result ever. The atmosphere and tradition at this University is second to none.”

BIG 12 CHAMPIONS!
DES MOINES, Iowa The University of Oklahoma competed in the Big 12 Championships hosted by Iowa State on Saturday, March 20, and won its first-ever Big 12 title with a 196.950.   Behind the Sooners were No. 7 Iowa State (196.925), No. 14 Missouri (196.425) and No. 11 Nebraska (196.175). 

On Saturday, the Sooners (14-9) scored in order a 49.175 on vault, 49.050 on uneven bars, 49.275 on balance beam and a 49.450 on the floor exercise.  OU outscored the rest of the field on the balance beam and floor and won every individual event except for the balance beam.

“We started off on vault and were just hammering away,” said Nunno.  “Then Ashley (Cooney) just nailed her routine for a 9.950 to win the event.  It was a great start and a great competition overall and we are excited to win this first Big 12 Championship.”

Senior co-captain Kasie Tamayo showed why she was the best gymnast in the Big 12 after dominating the meet winning the all-around title, her sixth straight, with a 39.575.  The Sacramento, Calif. native did not stop there, Tamayo went on to win the floor exercise with a 9.925 and the uneven bars with a 9.900.  Tamayo also finished second on balance beam (9.900) and fourth on the vault (9.850).  For her season long consistency, Tamayo was named the Big 12 Gymnast of the Year at the meet and Iowa State’ Janet Anson was named the Newcomer of the Year and K.J. Kindler (ISU) was named the Coach of the Year. 

“Kasie was outstanding tonight and deserves every accolade that comes her way,” said Nunno.  “I have said all year that she has been the model of consistency for this team and sets the example on the floor.  She has been on fire all season only missing two routines all year and it has been incredible to watch her compete.”

Tamayo is just the second Sooner in school history to win more than two conference championships and joins Kelly Garrison (four-time national champion) who last did it in 1988.  That year she swept the event titles for the second straight year.  Tamayo is the first Sooner since Mariana Goncalves to win the conference honor, Goncalves was honored in the 2002 season.

Freshman Ashley Cooney also shined at the conference meet, winning the vault with a career-high 9.950.  Cooney was tied with Missouri’s Alisha Robinson.

Entering the meet, the Sooners were win less in the regular season (0-3) losing close meets to all three of the Big 12 conference’s participants.  However, OU and ISU were the only teams that were ranked nationally in the top 20 in every team event. 

“We had the least amount of mistakes tonight and that is why we came out on top,” added Nunno.  “This is a little bit of redemption for us after losing all three conference meets during the season.  I am extremely proud of this team and now we have to prepare for the regionals and try to make our way back to nationals.”

IMAGESUPER FROSH
Another key to OU's success this season has been freshman Ashley Cooney.  Cooney came up big at the 2004 West Regional with a win on the vault, scoring a 9.950.  She also finished in second place in the all-around with a career-high 39.525. 

In addition, Cooney joined Kasie Tamayo as a Big 12 Individual Champion after she stuck her landing on the vault that scored a career-high 9.950.

Cooney has finished outright or tied for first on eight occasions this season (four times on vault and four on balance beam).  Cooney has also finished in the top five 22 other times, including seven second place finishes.  Among those second place finishes are her 39.375 in the all-around against Stanford and 39.500 against Penn State. Since she started competing in the all-around, Cooney has scored above a 39.000 in five of her eight competitions.

Cooney did not join the Sooners until after the first two weeks of the season.  Her first meet was the home opener with Air Force on Jan. 23.  Ever since then, the Plano, Texas native has been improving her scores in competition each time out.  She was a finalist for this season's Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
 

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