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OU Looks to Regain Conference Crown
March 24, 2005

NORMAN, Okla. -- The No. 2 Sooners begin postseason action this Friday, March 25, and Saturday, March 26, when they host the 2005 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships at the Lloyd Noble Center at 7 p.m. (CST) and 1 p.m. (CST) respectively. 

Friday night's competition will feature the team finals, which will include all five MPSF teams, Air Force, California, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Stanford.  Saturday afternoon's action will consist of the individual event finals. Participation in the individual event finals will be determined by the individual results in the team competition the night before. 
 
The top eight individual scores on each apparatus from Friday’s team competition will qualify for the respective event finals on Saturday afternoon.  Each team is limited to three participants on each event.

MPSF Championship Central | Live Scoring | Weekly Release  

OU enters the conference championship having posted two of the season's best team scores in its last two meets, along with moving up to the No. 2 ranking.  In those two meets, the Sooners defeated two top 10 opponents in No. 1 Ohio State and No. 7 Iowa.  The Sooners posted scores of 222.825 and 223.575, respectively. 

"We moved up to No. 2 in our last two meets and I think we moved up to our most prepared position of the season," said OU head coach Mark Williams.  "Right now, we are focusing all of our attention on the conference championships.  Our score on Friday night is important as far as the NCAA qualifying score goes.  I feel good about our team and we are ready for this meet."

The Sooners will face some stout competition in the MPSF championships as four of the five teams are ranked in the top nine in that nation included in that group is the MPSF defending champion, No. 5 California.  The Golden Bears are led by junior Graham Ackerman, who is tied for No. 1 in the nation on the floor exercise.  Stanford comes into the meet on the heels of a season-ending win over Cal with a season high score of 222.675. 

OU has faced the remaining two MPSF teams, Air Force and Nebraska, on multiple occasions this year.  The three teams opened up the season at the Rocky Mountain Open on Jan. 14 where the Sooners finished first (215.425), the Huskers second (206.625) and the Falcons third (193.325).  The Sooners took the rematch versus the Falcons (218.7) on Jan. 28 and then beat the Huskers two weeks in a row (Feb. 13-224.05 and Feb. 20-219.35).

Following the conference the meet, for the Sooners will compete for their third national title in four years at the 2005 NCAA Championships, April 7-9, hosted by the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.  The event will kick off on Thursday, April 7 with 12 teams in the qualifiers and the top six teams will advance to Friday's team finals.  The event finals on April 9 will consist of the top eight individual scores' in each individual event from Friday's team competition.  

Iowa  Recap
The No. 3 University of Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team topped No. 7 Iowa 223.575-219.025 on senior night, last Friday in Norman, Okla.  The Sooners led throughout the meet winning every event except for the high bar.  Following a ceremony to recognize OU’s seven seniors, who have never lost a home meet in their careers, OU set season highs on the floor exercise, pommel horse and still rings.

OU’s team score of 223.575 was its second highest this season, behind the Feb. 13 score of 224.050 against Nebraska and the seventh highest in NCAA history, under the current scoring system.  

“It was special tonight to able to recognize our seven seniors,” said OU head coach Mark Williams.  “It felt good to have those guys enjoy themselves.  As for the win, we took control early and never quit.  We didn’t have any bad events and we were steady all the way through, but we still have room to get better.”

Individually the Sooners were led by freshman Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons, who set career highs on three of the four events he competed in, including a new school record of 9.525 on the parallel bars.  The previous record of 9.5 was held by former OU gymnast Daniel Furney and current OU gymnast Josh Gore.  Abdullah-Simmons finished first on the parallel bars and third on the still rings (9.4) and high bar (9.35).

“Taqiy was big for us tonight,” added Williams.  “His parallel bar effort was tremendous and his performance on the rings was the best he’s had since he has been here.”

Abdullah-Simmons wasn’t the only Sooner breaking records, as fellow freshman Jonathan Horton set an OU individual record on the floor exercise by scoring a 9.825.  Horton had previously tied the old record of 9.75, held by former OU gymnast Jock Stevens, before breaking it Friday.  Horton took first on the floor and rings (9.65), second on the vault (9.5) and third on the parallel bars (9.35).

OU ends the regular season with an 8-1 mark, including another undefeated season at home.  The Sooners have rattled off 34 straight victories at home with the last defeat coming during the 2000 season to Ohio State (Jan. 28).

Revisiting MPSF 2004
In last year's MPSF Championships, hosted by Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., the Sooners streak of five straight conference titles was ended by California who won with a 220.225, as OU finished second with a mark of 219.600. 

OU took its first lead following the floor exercise (fourth rotation) after California had led the meet for the first three events.  OU was able to maintain the lead after the fifth rotation before Cal passed the Sooners to claim the title.

David Henderson finished third in the all-around with a 53.700.  OU outscored the field of four teams on the high bar, parallel bars and still rings.  OU also had the top individual scores on the floor exercise (Jock Stevens), still rings (Jamie Henderson) and parallel bars (Josh Gore)

2004 MPSF Results

 Team
FX 
PH
SR 
VT 
PB
HB 
Totals
 1.) Cal

37.850

37.450

36.425
36.900
35.100

36.500

220.225
 2.) OU

 36.550

 36.000

36.925
36.850
35.500 

 37.775

219.600
 3.) Stan.

 36.625

 34.250

36.525
36.575
33.900

 36.800

214.675

 4.) Neb.

  36.000

 33.650

37.025  35.900  33.750 

  35.200

211.525

 5.) AF

  34.850

 32.800

35.375 35.350 33.500

 33.025

204.900

Gore Looking to Repeat
After taking the 2004 championship on parallel bars, senior Josh Gore looks to repeat this year.  Gore, then ranked No. 3 in the nation, maintained his season-long consistency on the apparatus with a 9.187 and was followed by teammate senior Brian Trause (8.962).   Gore was one of only two Sooners to win individual titles as former OU gymnast Quinn Rowell took first on the high bar.

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 13 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.  Horton was also named to the 2005 U.S. Senior National Team after his performance at the Winter Cup in Las Vegas, Nev.

Earning High Marks
Since starting the season as the fourth best team in the high bar, the Sooners found themselves at No. 1 in the Feb. 14 rankings, the week after recording a season high 38.100 versus Nebraska on Feb. 13.  The Sooners only loss on the high bar came in their only team loss this season versus then-No. 3 Michigan on Jan. 22.  The Sooners have dropped to No. 3 since the those rankings were released.

Individually, the Sooners have six different competitors in the GymInfo top 25 polls led by junior Jamie Henderson at No. 8 and freshman Jonathan Horton at 12 .  Henderson has the Sooners highest mark on the high bar this year with a 9.650 against Ohio State on March 5.

The Sooners score of 38.100 versus Nebraska was the best high bar team mark this season and just .175 off the OU all-time high bar record of 38.275 set on March 6, 2004 versus then No. 1 Illinois.

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.  “Jonathan is a young, up-and-comer.  He is very aggressive in his routines and he could be the future of USA Gymnastics.”

In Friday night’s all-around, Horton finished eighth with a score of 51.181 and he 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.

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 2003 U.S. Championships and the 2002 Junior Nationals.

“At this point of the season, the Winter Cup is the best competition we’ve had, 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- Did not see action against Iowa.
Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons-  Set school record on the parallel bars with a 9.525 in win over Iowa.
Brian Carr- Set career highs on the pommel horse (9.525) and high bar (9.25) versus Iowa.
Kyle Fernandez-  Set a season high on the still rings (9.35) against Iowa.
Michael Gehart- Set career high on still rings (9.1) versus Iowa.
Josh Gore- Finished second on the pommel horse (9.65) and third on the floor (9.15) against Iowa.
David Henderson-  Took first on vault with a season high 9.5 in win over Iowa.
Jamie Henderson-  Tied OU individual season high with a 9.7 on the pommel horse versus Iowa.
Jonathan Horton- Set OU individual record on the floor with a 9.825 in Iowa win.
David Iammatteo- Finished third (9.35) on the vault against Iowa.
Jacob Messina- Contributed solid scores on the floor, pommel, rings and vault against Iowa.
James Myers-  Competed on the floor and high bar in win over Iowa.
Brian Trause-  Competed on the pommel horse and parallel bars against Iowa.
Joseph Weaver- Did not see action versus Iowa.

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 for 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 every meet including his 9.7 performance 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 seven first place finishes to go along with five second place finishes and two third place finishes on the season.

Rewriting the Record Book
On Friday, Jan. 28, the Sooners went back to their old ways of rewriting the school record books.  With a score of 37.400, the 2005 Sooners broke the previous team record on the parallel bars of 37.000 set on April 12, 2003.

Individually on the parallel bars that night, Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons set a career high with a score of 9.4, while Josh Gore and Jonathan Horton tied their career highs with a 9.4 and a 9.45, respectively.

2005 Sooners in a Familiar Spot -- At The Top
In the Feb. 13 meet with Nebraska, OU posted a score of 224.050, the second highest in the nation this season and the third highest 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.  On March 6, 2004, OU shattered the previous record of 223.500 set by the 2003 Sooners with a 225.200 versus then No. 1 Illinois.  OU currently owns the two of the three best tallies and four of the top 10 scores.  Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Stanford and Illinois are the only other members in the top 25. 

“The scary thing is that despite the fact that we recorded the third highest score in NCAA history, we still are not where we need to be on the floor exercise and on the vault," said OU head coach Mark Williams.   "Because of some small but nagging injuries, we have not been able to put the best personnel at 100 percent into each competition.  We are still hopeful to get those guys back to true form and be a lot stronger and balanced in the upcoming weeks leading up to the postseason.”

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