March 21, 2009
AMES, Iowa -- The Big 12 title is coming back to Norman for the second straight year.
The No. 8 OU women's gymnastics squad (13-4) posted a team tally of 196.125 in defending their 2008 victory, marking the first time Oklahoma has won back-to-back conference titles since reeling off three-straight Big Eight crowns from 1984-1986.
Nebraska placed second (196.075), Missouri third (195.925), as host squad Iowa State rounded out the team scoring in fourth (195.775).
Haley DeProspero (beam), Megan Ferguson (bars and beam) and Ashley Jackson (bars) became OU's latest conference event champions, as Oklahoma clinched event titles on beam and floor.
The victory marked OU's eighth conference title (2009,'08,'04,'93,'91,'86,'85,'84) and first ever in Ames. Oklahoma has now won a conference title in every Big 12 venue.
"It's always exciting to be able to call yourselves the Big 12 Champs," said OU head coach K.J. Kindler. "This has been one of our goals since the offseason. It's one of those events that you wake up in the morning with a knot in your stomach and that doesn't leave until the last routine. You want it so bad for your athletes, who have worked so hard during the entire year and it's so exciting to see their hard work result in another conference title."
The Sooners opened the meet on the ever-crucial beam, posting a solid team tally of 49.000 in the first rotation. DeProspero, the `08 Big 12 beam co-champion, scored a 9.85 in defending her title, matched by Ferguson in her first of two conference titles on the afternoon for the Olathe, Kan., freshman. Kristin Smith had a 9.8, while Natalie Ratcliff and Hollie Vise rounded out the OU rotation with a pair of 9.75s.
With beam out of the way, Oklahoma moved to floor trailing Nebraska (vault - 49.025) by just 0.025 of a point. Host-squad Iowa State scored a 48.900 on floor for an early third-place showing on the leaderboard, while Missouri's bars score of 48.800 put the Tigers in fourth.
OU tallied a 49.250 on floor behind five straight scores of 9.8 or higher to close the rotation. Smith led the way with a 9.9 from the anchor position, while Jackson was not far behind with a 9.875. Jackie Flanery tallied a 9.85 in her return to the lineup after a two week absence due to an ankle injury. Jessica Kinder (9.825) and DeProspero (9.8) closed the Oklahoma scoring. The Sooners took their first lead of the afternoon with a 98.250-98.050 advantage over Nebraska.
With its third 49-plus score of the meet, OU posted a 49.100 on vault to extend its lead. All six Sooners posted at least a 9.8, led by Melanie Root's 9.85. DeProspero and Ratcliff scored a pair of 9.825s while Flanery, Jackson and Sara Stone all scored a 9.8.
Oklahoma rounded out the win with a 48.775 on bars. Ferguson and Jackson both grabbed a share of the event title with a pair of 9.85s, while Kinder (9.775), Root (9.7) and DeProspero (9.6) rounded out the scoring.
"While the victory is nice, we can't become complacent," added Kindler. "We still have a lot of work to do to reach all of our season goals and we will get back in the gym with intentions of improving each and every day."
The trip to Ames was an eventful one for the Sooners as their connecting flight from Dallas to Des Moines, Iowa, was cancelled. The cancellation forced OU to fly to Chicago and bus six hours to Ames. The 1,517 mile journey started in Norman at 8:45 a.m. and concluded at 1:05 a.m. upon OU's arrival to its Ames hotel.
The Sooners now hold a 16-2 record versus conference opponents since the start of the 2007 season. OU awaits the location of its NCAA Regional site, which will be determined based on seeding following the conclusion of every conference championship.