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).
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.
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 winless in the regular season (0-3) losing close meets to all three of the Big 12’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.”
After Saturday’s event finals, the OU women will return to Norman and have two weeks to prepare for NCAA Regionals on April 3 for a site yet to be determined.