Dec. 6, 2000

The Sooner women kicked off their 2001 season with an intrasquad test December 3 at Sam Viersen Gymnastics Center on the campus of the University of Oklahoma.

In front of a crowd of more than 100 fans, including Olympic gold medalists Bart Conner (USA, 1984) and Rustam Sharipov (USSR/Ukraine, 1992 & 1996), the young team, which features one junior, three sophomores and five freshmen, went through their paces for the first time. Freshman Stacey Mardock and sophomore Carley Smith sat out the intrasquad, while redshirt freshman Leah Mueller, who injured her ankle just prior to the meet, performed only a partial routine on bars.

The casual event, which was held jointly with the Oklahoma men's gymnastics team, was prefaced by a special "gymnastics chorus," made up of OU's eight freshman gymnasts, singing the Star Spangled Banner.

On the competition floor, sophomore Patricia Aoki led the Sooner all-around effort with strong performances on all four events, including a new Yurchenko full vault and complex bars sequence (Healy turn to Jaeger). "The three Brazilians (Aoki, Leticia Ishii and Mariana Goncalves) really came through today," said OU co-head coach Steve Nunno said after the intrasquad event. "Patricia was the most impressive overall, and Mariana, who has been leading the team all along, was a little sloppier on floor and beam than she's been. However, she did a double back dismount on beam, which she hasn't done in two years, and we're going to change her choreography and music on floor, so I think we'll solve those problems."

Goncalves also added an impressive new vault to her repertoire, debuting a Hristikieva (layout Yurchenko half). Ishii, a former Brazilian national teammate of Goncalves, was equally innovative, executing a new floor dismount (whip immediate double twist) in her first meet back since wrist surgery.

"Leticia is not quite up to full strength at this time," Nunno said of the sophomore, "but she performed well and really looked like the veteran that she is. This is where the experience, she's been on world teams, Pan Am teams, comes through."

With five freshmen on his squad, Nunno will need all the experience he can get. Three of the five newcomers are coming back from serious injury or illness. "They're an inexperienced team and I wasn't quite sure what to expect since this is the first time they've performed as a unit. I was very impressed by what I saw. The freshmen are going to have to fill in some blanks, but I'm proud of how the upperclassmen led the team. They did more difficulty than well ever need in college and hit their skills very well. I was impressed with the performances and the level gymnastics.

"Overall, I was happy with the performance of the team. I think this team has a lot of hope to make it to nationals. That's our goal this year. I think a lot of people will be very surprised with our success."

The Sooner women will kick off the 2001 season with a dual meet against Texas Woman's University, January 12.