Sooners Prep for Top-25 Road Battle

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
JANUARY 21, 2010

Jan. 21, 2010

 No. 2 Oklahoma at No. 25 Illinois
 Date  Saturday, Jan. 23 | 7 p.m. (CT)
 Location  Champaign, Ill. | Huff Hall (4,500)
 Tickets  1-866-ILLINI-1
 Live Stats  Oklahoma at Illinois
 Online  Webcast (All-Access Subscribers) 
 Meet Notes  Sooners 

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The second-ranked OU women’s gymnastics squad continues its current three-meet road stand at No. 25 Illinois on Saturday, Jan. 23.  The top-25 battle marks OU’s first trip to Champaign, Ill., in program history and commences at 7 p.m. (CT) inside Huff Hall in the Fighting Illini’s home opener.  Illinois is the third-straight top-25 opponent for the Sooners to start their 2010 campaign.  Oklahoma is 6-0 all-time against the Fighting Illini.

OU remained at No. 2 in Monday’s weekly Troester rankings after its victory at ninth-ranked Auburn on Jan. 15, but gained ground on top-ranked UCLA.  The Sooners hold a season average of 196.275, less than a tenth of a point behind the Bruins (196.362).

Oklahoma has been one of the most consistent teams in the country during the first two weeks of competition, hitting 47-of-48 routines en route to back-to-back wins over top-10 opponents. The early success can be attributed to stellar performances on bars and beam, where the Sooners are currently ranked first in the country on each apparatus.  OU’s season average on the uneven bars is a 49.200, while the beam squad has posted a mark of 49.025 through two events.  OU is a perfect 24-of-24 on these two events heading into the third week of competition.

Individually, Hollie Vise holds top-five national rankings on bars (No. 4 - 9.887) and beam (No. 2 - 9.887), while Megan Ferguson is ranked fourth on beam (9.875).

Oklahoma Roster | 2010 Schedule and Results | Intro Video

OU's meeting with Illinois will feature a live webcast for All-Access subscribers, which can be found at  Live stats for all meets can be found on

Friday, Jan. 22:
Missouri @ Iowa State - 7 p.m. (CT)  

Sunday, Jan. 24:
Michigan @ Nebraska - 2 p.m. (CT) 


A 2009 NCAA Championships qualifier for the first time in program history, Illinois is currently ranked No. 25 in the latest Troester rankings.  The Fighting Illini have been solid on vault, posting a season average of 48.687 on the apparatus, which ranks 20th in the country.  Illinois is led by all-arounder Allison Buckley, who posted a 39.275 in the all-around in Illinois’ second-place finish at Nebraska on Jan. 15.

The Fighting Illini went 17-7 overall, 5-2 at home last season.  Illinois' high score of the 2009 season (196.750) came at home in a second-place finish at the Big Ten Championships. 

Illinois is coached by 2009 National Coach of the Year Bob Starkell and Co-Assistant Coaches of the Year in Kim Landrus and Amy Kruse. 

Oklahoma has hit 47-of-48 routines on the year, including stellar performances on bars and beam, where the Sooners are currently ranked first in the country on each apparatus.  OU’s season average on the uneven bars is a 49.200, while the beam squad has posted a mark of 49.025.  OU is a perfect 24-of-24 on these two events heading into the third week of competition.

The Sooners have collected 14 of a possible 16 combined individual and team event titles in 2010.  OU swept all four team event honors at Auburn, a week after winning team titles on every event but vault against No. 4 Florida.  OU’s lone loss in the individual event standings was on vault against Auburn.  

Oklahoma is 43-6 in the regular season under K.J. Kindler.  The Sooners went 10-4 during the regular season in 2009, with three of those losses coming on the road (Florida, Nebraska and Alabama). 

Fifteen of Oklahoma’s 48 routines this season have been performed by freshmen (.313), including exactly half of OU’s uneven bars routines (six of 12).  Each freshman that has competed has scored at least a 9.8 in one of their routines, while Natasha Kelley has already tallied a pair of 9.85s. 

The Sooners seek some of the same road success in 2010 that they have exhibited in recent years.  Five of OU’s top seven scores (including a season-high 197.175 at TWU) came away from Norman in 2009, a year after five of Oklahoma’s top seven scores (including three of the top four and a season-best-tying 196.750 at Arkansas) came on the road.  Oklahoma was the only squad in the top 10 to have both of its top two scores from 2009 come in road competition.  OU’s 197.175-189.600 victory at TWU last season marked its best team score since Jan. 24, 2004 (197.300).

OU has found a way to win lately despite the lack of a true all-around presence.  Oklahoma did not have an all-arounder compete against Florida or Auburn, while the Sooners were the only squad ranked in the final 2009 top-15 GymInfo poll without a gymnast in the top-25 all-around rankings.   


Kayla Nowak | Fr. | UB-BB-FX 
The Algonquin, Ill., freshman returns to her home state for the first time in collegiate competition on Saturday against the Fighting Illini. Nowak has been a regular in the Oklahoma lineup from the onset, competing on bars, beam and floor in both meets this season. Nowak posted a 9.85 in her first collegiate floor routine in OU’s season opener against Florida and tied for second on the apparatus. 


Strictly a bars and beam specialist during her first three seasons in Norman, Hollie Vise performed her first collegiate routine on floor against the Gators.  The Dallas, Texas, native scored a 9.825 on the apparatus, OU’s third-highest score on the event in the season opener.  

Oklahoma’s meeting with Auburn on Jan. 15, marked the 18th time the Sooners have faced a team from the state of Alabama since 2003.  AU and OU have squared off on three occasions since ‘03, while Oklahoma has faced Alabama, the other collegiate squad from the Yellowhammer State, 15 times during that period. 

OU will face four teams from the Southeastern Conference during the regular season, including two straight to begin the 2010 season.  The Sooners have already defeated top-10 foes in Florida and Auburn.  Oklahoma faces Alabama in Norman on March 5, in the eighth meeting between the two programs over the last four seasons, before travelling to Arkansas on March 19.  

Oklahoma is 6-18 against teams from the Southeastern Conference under fourth-year head coach K.J. Kindler.  That figure is skewed slightly as 17 of the 23 meetings have come in NCAA postseason competition against the upper echelon of the SEC.  The Sooners are 3-4 against SEC foes in the regular season, with wins over Auburn (2010), Florida (2010) and Arkansas (2008).  

The Sooners are 23-2 in Norman under fourth-year head coach K.J. Kindler.  OU’s only two losses at home have come against SEC opponents in Alabama and Arkansas.  Top-seeded Alabama knocked off the Sooners en route to the NCAA South Central Regional title in 2008, while OU’s loss to Arkansas in the 2009 home opener marked Oklahoma’s only regular season home defeat in Kindler’s tenure.      

Among the 55 home wins since 2000 are notable victories over Auburn, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Iowa State, Missouri, Nebraska, Penn State, Stanford and West Virginia.   

OU's season opener will feature two recent recipients of the National Association of Collegiate
Gymnastics Coaches (NACGC) Coach of the Year award.  K.J. Kindler received the accolade in 2005 while at Iowa State, while Florida's Rhonda Faehn was named the national coach of the year in 2007.

The Sooners are one of just six squads to advance to the NCAA Championships every year since 2004, joining Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU and Utah on that elite list.  OU’s six championship appearances in the last six years matches the other three Big 12 programs combined during that period.  Nebraska advanced to the NCAA Championships from 2004-07, while Iowa State made back-to-back appearances in 2005 and 2006 under K.J. Kindler.   

The back-to-back Big 12 Champions open the 2010 season ranked ninth in the GymInfo preseason coaches poll, the highest ranking of any conference squad.  The Sooners return 11 members from last season's group that clinched OU's second straight conference title. 

Headlining OU's returnees is sophomore All-American Megan Ferguson.  The Olathe, Kan., native capped off her stellar freshman campaign by garnering All-America status on beam at the 2009 NCAA Championships.  She became the first freshman in Big 12 history to win multiple event titles at the conference championship (bars and beam).

Other returnees include All-Big 12 selections in Jackie Flanery (floor - 2008), Melanie Root (vault - 2009), Kristin Smith (floor - 2009) and Hollie Vise (bars - 2008, beam - 2008, 2009).  The quartet has combined for nine Big 12 Event Specialist of the Week honors in the past two seasons.

Also returning in 2010 are event title winners Mary Mantle (Big 12 Event Specialist of the Week on Feb. 12, 2008, after her vault win at Denver) and Sara Stone (three vault titles in 2009).

This season also marks the final send-off for Julie Kramer, while other returnees include juniors Candace Cindell and Natalie Ratcliff.  Ratcliff was a mainstay in the vault and beam lineup a year ago.

OU gymnastics fans also will have their first chance to see Oklahoma's freshman class of Bethany Neubauer, Kayla Nowak, Brie Olson and Nitya Ramaswami. The class was recently ranked No. 9 in the country by

The OU gymnastics program maintains its own Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts, which are updated frequently with all of the latest news about the squad.  Links to each of those pages can be found at, the official site of the Oklahoma Sooners. 

Head Coach K.J. Kindler announced the signing of three gymnasts to National Letters of Intent on Nov. 11, the first day of the early signing period.  All hailing from the Lone Star state, the trio of Lauren Alexander (Plano, Texas), Hope Bruce (Denton, Texas) and Taylor Spears (Plano, Texas) will cross the Red River to join the Sooners next fall.

Bruce is a Junior International Elite qualifier, while Alexander and Spears both excelled at JO Nationals prior to signing with the Sooners. 

If the old adage rings true, the Sooners should be on top of their game in 2010 as the team recently moved  into of the top training gyms in the entire country.  OU recently completed a state-of-the-art 7,000 square foot addition and a complete overhaul of the existing Sam Viersen Gymnastics Center for the men's and women's gymnastics squads. 

Funded entirely by private donations without the use of any state or university appropriated funds, the project included a complete renovation of the current gym, locker rooms, sports medicine training rooms and the awards recognition room.  A new storage area, a reconfiguration of foam and resi pits and an outdoor patio also highlighted the renovation.



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