April 22, 2010
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Oklahoma women’s gymnastics senior class was bound and determined not to let OU’s NCAA Championships run end where it had in its nine previous appearances, nailing three crucial floor routines that stamped OU’s first trip to the Super Six Team Finals in program history.
Oklahoma posted a team tally of 196.550 in its third-place finish, securing the final spot of the afternoon session into Friday’s six-team meet that decides the national champion.
No. 1 seed UCLA won the afternoon qualifying session with its 196.875 total, while nine-time NCAA champion Utah placed second (196.625).
Fellow Big 12 squad Nebraska placed fourth with a 196.175 tally, while Oregon State (196.050) and LSU (196.025) rounded out the team scoring.
OU improved to 25-2 this season by breaking program records with its highest bars and beam event scores at a NCAA Championships competition.
The Sooners hit 23-of-24 routines on the night but none were more important than the final three from the senior trio that pushed Oklahoma past its NCAA Championships roadblock.
After OU posted its only fall of the night in the third spot on its final event, the group closed the afternoon preliminary session with three routines of 9.875 or better, ensuring that OU remained in the running for its first national title.
“Out of the gate, I was nervous all day up until the very last routine,” said head coach K.J. Kindler. “I have a lot of faith in my team, but my feelings overcame me. I tried to stay calm and show the confidence I have in them. We started off rough on the vault, not doing our best. I felt like we left a lot of gymnastics out on the floor and I think we can do a much better job tomorrow night. We can be more precise in what we’re doing.
“I think in some instances, we tried too hard, but it is very important for this team to make the Super Six. It was a big dream and now it is reality. We are very excited for tomorrow night.”
Kindler is the only coach in NCAA history to lead two different programs to the Super Six, a format that was instituted at the 1993 NCAA Championships. The five-time Big 12 Coach of the Year and 2005 NACGCW Coach of the Year led Iowa State to its first appearance in the team finals in 2006.
Hollie Vise qualified to Saturday’s individual event finals where she will compete on both the uneven bars and floor exercise. Even more remarkable considering Vise was making her NCAA Championships debut on floor as a senior in Thursday's competition.
The Dallas native garnered first-team All-America distinction on bars and floor and second-team honors on beam. Joining Vise as All-Americans are Kristin Smith (beam – second team, floor – second team), Megan Ferguson (bars – second team) and Jackie Flanery (floor – second team).
OU’s seven total All-America honors are the most in a single season in program history.
“This is my senior year and the first time my team is advancing. I am really excited to see the result of what we have worked so hard at reaching for the past four years,” said Vise. “We have worked really hard all year and now it is paying off. We are really excited for the opportunity to compete tomorrow night. I am really proud of my teammates. We stuck together tonight and there is room for us to make improvements tomorrow night.”
Oklahoma opened the championship with a team tally of 49.000 on vault, the fourth highest tally in program history on the apparatus at NCAAs. The Sooners were paced by 9.825s from anchor Sara Stone and freshman Brie Olson. Natasha Kelley and Mary Mantle scored a pair of 9.8s, while Natalie Ratcliff rounded out the team scoring with her 9.75 effort.
The Sooners broke the 49.000 barrier for only the second time in NCAA Championships competition on bars with their NCAA Championships program-best score of 49.150. OU was paced by Vise’s 9.9 effort in a share of second place overall. Ferguson was right on her heels with a 9.875, while Kelley and Flanery posted a pair of 9.8s.
Oklahoma was six-for-six on the ever-crucial beam en route to its second consecutive event tally of 49.150. Smith and Vise led the way with a pair of 9.875s, while Ferguson, Ratcliff and Kelley all scored 9.8.
Not to be forgotten in the great senior floor finish were routines of 9.825 (Stone) and 9.775 (Kayla Nowak) to open the rotation.
The afternoon session featured a heated battle for the three advancing spots as all six teams were within 0.575 of each other at the midway point of the meet. All six squads posted at least a 196.000 for the first time since the evening session of the 2004 NCAA evening qualifying session.
The Sooners are hoping that recent trends prevail once again as two of the last three national champions have come out of the afternoon session.
Oklahoma is the first Big 12 squad since Nebraska in 2007 to qualify to the Super Six.