Sooners At NCAA Regionals Preview

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
MARCH 31, 2004

2004 NCAA Regionals
Saturday, April 3, 2004
6 p.m. PST
Corvallis, Oregon (Gill Coliseum)

No. 3 Alabama
No. 10 Oregon State
No. 32 California
No. 36 Boise State
No. 46 Cal State Fullerton

The University of Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team will travel to Corvallis, Oregon for the 2004 NCAA Regionals on April 3 inside Gill Coliseum at 6 p.m. (PST).  The 2004 Big 12 Champions are ranked No. 15 in the new GymInfo poll released on Monday and will compete in the West Region with No. 3 Alabama, No. 10 Oregon State, No. 32 California, No. 36 Boise State and No. 46 Cal State Fullerton.

The top two finishers in each region (six total) will advance to the final 12 at the NCAA National Championships in Los Angeles, Calif., hosted by UCLA.

Live Stats
Scores will be posted after each rotation on the following link: LIVE STATS.

The Sooners finished fourth in last year’s regionals hosted by Alabama, finishing just 0.050 points behind Central Michigan and Auburn.  In 2002 at Corvallis, Oregon, OU was third behind Oregon State and Utah missing a chance at nationals by just 0.175 points.

“I think we landed in a good field and it will be a tough competition,” said Oklahoma head coach Steve Nunno.  “We will enter that meet just like we did before the Big 12 Championship meet with the mind set that if we compete to our capabilities we can finish at or near the top.

“Alabama is a tough team and we match up well with Oregon State.  When it comes down to talent, I think it will come down between us three.  That is not to say we are looking past the other teams because all three of those schools have been coming on strong near the end of the season and are capable of finishing well.  We are hoping to have the same type of meet we had when we won the conference title.  It is going to be a tough environment up there but after competing at Iowa State (Big 12 Championship) and at Oregon State two years ago, I don’t think there is anything we can’t handle.”

Complete Release | 2004 Statistics

OU (14-9) is ranked No. 15 in the GymInfo Poll, averaging a team score of 196.365 and hold a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) of 196.865.  The Sooners have defeated current No. 2 Stanford,No. 9 Iowa State, No. 10 Oregon State, No. 13 Nebraska, No. 14 Denver, No. 16 Missouria, Penn State, Southern Utah (twice), Air Force (twice) and TWU (three times).  All of the Sooners' losses have come to teams that are currently ranked in the top 25: No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 Georgia (twice), No. 8 Florida, No. 9 Iowa State, No. 13 Nebraska, No. 11 Washington, No. 20 Iowa and No. 16 Missouri.

The key to the Sooners' first-ever Big 12 Championship was senior co-captain Kasie Tamayo’s performance.  Tamayo dominated the meet winning the all-around title, her sixth straight, with a 39.575. The Sacramento, Calif. native also went on to win the floor exercise with a 9.925 and the uneven bars with a 9.900.

“Kasie continues to impress everyone, including me,” said Nunno.  “She is so self motivated and I am extremely proud of her.  She deserves everything she has accomplished through all the injuries and disappointment of past years.  She is always looking for that tough challenge to motivate her and now she has a place in the OU record books.  As a team, we have come to depend on Kasie.  She is the strength of this squad and we will look to her again to get us to nationals.”

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 was the last to win that many 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 here to view a comparison of how the teams in the West Regional rank in each event, as ranked by the GymInfo Polls.  OU, Alabama and Oregon State are the only teams ranked in the top 20 of each team event.  OU and Alabama are the only teams to have an individual ranked in the top 20 of at least three events.

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.”

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.”

The Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team just missed out on a berth to the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive season after finishing fourth in the South Central NCAA Championships Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Sooners were narrowly edged (.05 of a point) by Auburn (196.350) and Central Michigan (196.350) which finished behind regional champion Alabama (197.550). 

OU was trailing heading into the final rotation on beam. The Sooners put up a valiant effort and scored a solid 49.275, but it was just short of what they needed to move into second place.

“The girls battled back tooth and nail,” said Nunno. “They pulled us back in the mix and they really made their fans and coaches proud. Unfortunately, Central Michigan and Auburn were good enough to hold us off. I have to give them a lot of credit.”

Senior Patrica Aoki led the Sooners on vault (9.875) and floor (9.85), where she posted team high scores. On bars Kasie Tamayo (9.825) and Erin LaBarr (9.875) put up solid scores, as did Leah Mueller (9.850).

After failing to post a score of 9.9 or better through the first three events, the Sooners were able to throw up a pair on beam. Landis made up for her rare miscue on bars with a beam score of 9.925, which was nearly matched by Kelly Haggerty’s 9.9.

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

Tamayo on the Big 12 Championship and Upcoming Regional Meet
“I feel like I have met most of my expectations for this season and that holds true on an individual and team level,” said Tamayo after the Big 12 Championships.  “This team has gelled together near the end of the season and that has been the difference.  Now we have the regional meet and it does not really matter to us where the competition is held.  After the disappointment of last year, we are looking to take care of business out there just like we did at the Big 12 meet last week.” 

Three weeks ago the University of Oklahoma women’s gymnastics fell out of the top five in the nation on the uneven bars and is now averaging a RQS of 49.365, good for sixth in the nation.  For six consecutive weeks, the Sooners were ranked in the top five on the apparatus.  Oklahoma is also No. 1 in the south central region and No. 1 in the Big 12.

The Sooners are not far behind the nation's best, just a over a tenth below the top average held by defending national champion UCLA (49.540). 

OU has scored better than its competition on bars in ten meets this season and was third at the Big 12 Championships and placed second in the other two.  Nebraska broke OU's streak of five consecutive weeks of outscoring its opposition.  The Washington Huskies scored higher than the Sooners during first meet of the season at the Cancun Classic. And Iowa State and Nebraska topped OU at the Big 12 meet.

The top two teams and the top two all-around competitors (who are not on an advancing team) from each regional will receive an automatic berth to the national championships in Los Angeles, California, April 15-17, hosted by the University of California, Los Angeles.

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

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.

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.”

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.

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.  

Another key to OU's success this season has been freshman Ashley Cooney.  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 seven occasions this season (three times on vault and four  on balance beam).  Cooney has also finished in the top five 19 other times, including six 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 four of her seven 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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