AUBURN, Ala. The University of Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team had its official practice this afternoon for the National Collegiate Gymnastics Championships that begin Thursday, April 21.
Oklahoma will compete in the first of two preliminary sessions at 1 p.m. The top three teams from each session will advance to the team finals on Friday when a national champion will be crowned.
Today the Sooners checked out their competition floor at the Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum for the first time since a dual meet with the Tigers in February.
“They did an awesome job preparing the arena,” sophomore Ashley Cooney said. “It looked a lot like Los Angeles last year and nothing like when we were here earlier for a dual meet. I had a good feeling walking in. I was a lot more comfortable.”
The new equipment was something to get used to, as every team came away from their first touches a little rattled.
“It was interesting,” senior Erin LaBarr said. “Not what I remember from last year. It’s always different being on a podiumand it was brand new equipment. Some girls got used to it pretty fast, but some didn’t. But, that’s what today’s workout was forto get used to what we will compete on. When it comes to meet time, I think everybody will ready. I don’t think we’ll have any problems tomorrow.”
“It’s just like every meet,” 2004 All-American Tiffany Willin said. “You have to adjust to different equipment, a different feel. This is different than last year because I know what to expect. I know what we have to do to get the job done.”
OU also got its first look at some of its competition as it shared the floor with Michigan, BYU and Alabama.
“They looked good,” sophomore Brittany Koncak said. “When you get to nationals, you can’t expect some teams to not look good. These are the top 12 teams in the country and they’re not going to leave anything on the table.”
"Supermodels" Ashley Cooney and Jenny Baker.
All in all, OU came away from the practice session confident and eager for their first competition in two weeks.
“Today was more of a day that you just go in to feel the equipment you’ll be using, make adjustments to it and get ready for the competition,” Koncak continued. “I think we’ve trained hard all week and we have a great chance tomorrow night. We’ll just have to go in there with the right attitude.”
After the practice, head coach Steve Nunno and LaBarr were directed to a press conference for national and local media, while the remainder of the team returned to the hotel for a three-hour study session before leaving for dinner.
CBS, who will air the national championships Sunday, May 1, at noon, taped interviews with LaBarr and Nunno for their telecast.
LaBarr is interview by CBS' Tracy Wolfson.
The Sooners qualified for the national championships for the first time in consecutive years, allowing for some upperclassmen experience. However, it may be the newcomers who are most comfortable on the grand stage.
“I like this format much more than dual meets,” Brazilian Coral Borda said. “I am much more comfortable having a lot of teams compete at one time.”
“I’m used to competing on podiums,” Stephanie LoPiccolo, an alternate on the Australian Olympic team, said. “Although, I haven't done it since the Austalian Nationals last year.”
And it’s a freshman who can sum it up better than anyone.
“It’s exciting just to be here,” freshman Caitlin Hinkis said, “but we still have to show up tomorrow and get the job done.”
Oklahoma's title quest begins at 1 p.m. Log on to SoonerSports.com's National Championships Central and follow the meet by clicking on the live scoring link.