No. 3 Oklahoma Set To Battle Nebraska In Lincoln

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
FEBRUARY 17, 2005

Nebraska Part Two
The University of Oklahoma will face No. 11 Nebraska for the second straight week this Sunday, Feb. 20, at the Bob Devaney Sports Center at 2 p.m. CST.  In last week's action in Oklahoma City, the Sooners set the nation's highest score on way to defeating the Huskers 224.050-212.650.  The Sooners won every event except for the vault.

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Both teams moved up in the latest GymInfo rankings, OU from four to three and Nebraska from 12 to 11.  The Huskers 212.650 last week was their highest score of the season.  The Sooners also scored a season high last week (224.050) and moved up in several event rankings, including a No. 1 ranking on the high bar.

Even with the big win last week against the Huskers, the Sooners still have to be able to go on the road and try to duplicate those results.

"Even though we are facing the same team, home and away are like night and day," said OU head coach Mark Williams.  "There are two differences, the scoring and the fan support.  You tend to have different scores on the road then you do at home.  Also, you don't your fans there to be loud and support you.  It is a test to get motivated away from home."

The meet versus OU will be the second of a difficult weekend for Nebraska.  On Friday, the Huskers travel to Columbus, Ohio to face the No. 2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes before returning home to prepare for Sunday's meet versus the Sooners.

Moving On Up
In the latest GymInfo poll, the Sooners took a step from four to three, switching places with Michigan.  The Sooners also managed to move up in several event rankings.  On the pommel horse, OU jumped three spots to No. 3.  The still rings has the Sooners moving from seven to five.  On the vault, OU stepped up one spot to No. 9 and on the high bar, the Sooners currently own the nation's best team, up two spot's from last week.

Individually, Jonathan Horton made the biggest jump in the rankings on the still rings, jumping ten spots to No. 4 following his season high score of 9.825 in the event.

Freshman Jonathan Horton
Nebraska Recap (2/13/05)
The No. 4 University of Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team posted the nation’s highest score this season on Sunday and the second highest of all-time (under the current scoring system) when it defeated No. 12 Nebraska, 224.050-212.650. OU swept every event except the vault. 
The score of 224.050 was the nation’s best since the Sooners posted a score of 225.200 on March 6, 2004.  The win also tied the OU-NU series record at 28 and gave OU the chance to take the series lead next weekend in a rematch of today’s action.

“This win was significant for two reasons,” said OU head coach Mark Williams.  “One, it tied the series record with Nebraska and two, it is the highest score in the nation this year.  This win and the score should put us right back into the top along with Ohio State and Illinois.  We scored high on the still rings and on the high bar and that is excellent in terms of our team score.”

Individually, the Sooners were led by junior Jamie Henderson, finishing first and setting a career record in the all-around with a score of 55.750.  Henderson also set career records on the pommel horse with a 9.6, picking up a second place finish, on the parallel bars with a 9.0, good enough for third and on the floor with a 8.95 (tied-fourth).  Henderson also tied for first on the high bar (9.55) and finished second on the still rings with a season high 9.65.

“Jamie has really helped us out a lot lately,” added Williams.  “His career high in the all-around was a total boost for us.  He really set the pace for us and stepped up for the team today.” 

Senior Josh Gore jumped into the record-breaking fun, setting career records and finishing first in all three events he competed in, the pommel horse (9.7), the parallel bars (9.5) and the high bar (9.55).  Gore’s score on the parallel bars tied former OU gymnast Daniel Furney’s school record set on March 1, 2003.

All together, the Sooner gymnasts set 19 individual career records and 27 individual season records.  Individually, the Sooners took first in every event except for the vault. 

2005 Sooners in a Familiar Spot -- At The Top
In last week's meet with Nebraska, OU posted a score of 224.050,  the highest in the nation this season and the second 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 best tallies and six of the top 10 scores.  Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Illinois are the only other members in the top 25. 

“The scary thing is that despite the fact that we recorded the second 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."

NCAA All-Time Team High Scores (Top 10)

Rank/Score Team Date
1. 225.20 OKLAHOMA 3/6/04
2. 224.05 OKLAHOMA 2/13/05
3. 223.875 Ohio State 1/22/05
4. 223.50 OKLAHOMA 3/28/05
5. 223.40 Ohio State 1/29/05
5. 223.40 Illinois 1/29/05
7. 223.350 Penn State 4/3/04
8. 222.60 OKLAHOMA 4/12/03
9. 222.50 OKLAHOMA 3/7/03
10. 222.30 OKLAHOMA 4/3/04

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 has taken first on the pommel in every meet including last week's 9.7 performance versus Nebraska.  The senior from Pflugerville, Texas has also picked up two other first place finishes last week (parallel bars and high bar) to go along with two second place finishes and one third place finish on the season.

Earning High Marks
Since starting the season as the fourth best team in the high bar, the Sooners find themselves at No. 1 this week after recording a season high 38.100 versus Nebraska.  The Sooners only loss on the high bar came in their only team loss this season versus then No. 3 Michigan on Jan. 22.

Individually, the Sooners have seven different competitors in the GymInfo top 25 polls led by juniors Jamie Henderson at five and James Myers at eight.  Henderson has the Sooners highest mark on the high bar this year with a 9.600 against Air Force on Jan. 28.

The Sooners score of 38.100 last weekend 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.

Shouldering the Load
Since returning from shoulder injuries, seniors David Henderson and Kyle Fernandez have helped the Sooners to two straight wins. 

In his first action of the season versus Air Force, Henderson picked up two first place finishes, on the rings (9.55) and on the vault (9.15).  In last week's match against Nebraska, Henderson managed to finish third on the rings with a score 9.625.

Fernandez has contributed nicely as well, picking up a second place finish (9.0) against Air Force and bettered that score with a 9.35 versus Nebraska.

Head Coach Mark Williams
Nebraska Connections
OU head coach Mark Williams attended Nebraska and competed in gymnastics under current Nebraska head coach Francis Allen from 1977-1980.  During his time as a Husker, Williams received All-America honors on the high bar (1978) in addition to the two national championship titles he earned with his team (1979, 1980).  Williams graduated from Nebraska with a bachelor's degree in secondary education/english.

"Looking back on the first couple years that I was a head coach, I remembered the OU-Nebraska rivalries from when I was competing," said OU head coach Mark Williams.  "In 1979, we had 5,000 people at regular conference meet between OU and Nebraska.  The next year we had the NCAA Championships in Lincoln, we won and OU finished second, but we had 9,000 fans for the team finals.  That kind of competition is great for the sport.  Just like the two schools have great tradition in the football, both have had 20 years of strong gymnastics programs.

"I've always like competing against my former coach, Francis Allen," added Williams.  "It makes me proud when I think about how he developed me and I have been successful in coaching.  I think it probably also makes him proud to see me and what I've accomplished at Oklahoma.  We share a mutual respect for each other, our teams respect each other and we have a friendly rivalry. " 

OU freshman Jonathan Horton and Nebraska Adam Tietze both trained at the same gym, Cypress Academy of Gymnastics, prior to their college careers.

Horton Named to U.S. National Team
On Saturday night, 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.”




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