|OU Team Highs|
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Simply Magic.
The Oklahoma Sooners hit the best score in NCAA Championships history, and needed every thousandth-of-a-point to bring home the program's first national championship.
OU and Florida were named co-national champions with scores of 198.175. It was the first time there have been co-winners at the NCAA Division I Women's Gymnastics Championships.
"Our team was just in a magical place from the second we got here tonight," Kindler said. "We worked through practice, we worked through yesterday’s meet, but today we didn’t work at all. There was very little error from our team. That’s the best we can do. We knew coming in that we could do it. I don’t think anyone else really gave us a chance. But, I think that we knew we could do it. Now the dream is a reality."
To get there, Oklahoma scored a 49.550 on vault, including 9.95s from Chayse Capps and Haley Scaman. Maileana Kanewa and Keeley Kmieciak added 9.9s, and OU counted a 9.85 on the event. Every pointed toe and perfect posture mattered to help the Sooners capture the sport's most important collegiate trophy.
“I can’t even explain the feeling," senior Taylor Spears said. "I was crying after every single vault and I don’t even compete in the vault. I had the feeling and we came so close last year. I wanted it so bad and the team wanted it so bad. It was there tonight and I’m just so happy.”
The night started with a bang as OU lit up the arena on bars with a 49.500, tying the 2013 squad for the program's best-ever bars score at an NCAA Championship. The Sooners soared to their best score since the Big 12 Championships behind a career-high 9.95 from Keeley Kmieciak in the No. 4 spot and efforts of 9.925 from anchor Taylor Spears and 9.9 from Erica Brewer. Brewer made her return to the bars lineup yesterday after several injury tweaks limited her this season and responded with her best score since OU's season opener in January. The Sooners also counted a 9.875 from freshman McKenzie Wofford on a strong routine and a 9.85 from sophomore Haley Scaman.
The Sooners couldn't be stopped on beam, attacking the apparatus with the confidence and grace the lineup has become known for. OU hit a 49.525, a program-best NCAA Championship score for the second event in a row. Oklahoma was led by the back end of its stacked lineup, including a career-best-tying 9.925 for Rebecca Clark in the anchor position. Spears added a 9.925 in the No. 5 position, breaking the 9.9-mark for the second routine in a row. Chayse Capps moved beautifully through her routine for a 9.9, while freshman Kara Lovan hit a 9.9 in the No. 2 spot to aid the Sooners. Madison Mooring led off on a stellar note for OU to open the rotation, hitting a 9.875.
Following the third rotation, the meet was near-deadlocked as all teams had two events under their belts. Alabama led the way at 99.150, followed by a 99.050 from Florida, OU's 99.025, LSU with 98.725, Nebraska at 98.500 and Georgia at 98.250.
After a bye, the Sooners moved to floor exercise and lit up the arena, recording no scores lower than 9.9 on all six routines. Scaman and senior Lara Albright led the way, with each earning incredible efforts of 9.95 on exquisite and captivating routines toward the end of the squad's lineup. Maile'ana Kanewa, Capps, Spears and Lovan all earned efforts of 9.9. It was a routine for the record books, with Spears and Lovan tying career-highs and Albright setting a new career-best. The rotation was the third in a row in which Oklahoma set a program-best NCAA Championship score on the event.
Oklahoma is only the sixth team in NCAA women's gymnastics history to win a national championship, joining Alabama, Georgia, Florida, UCLA and Utah.
Oklahoma now has four top-three NCAA finishes since 2010 and has finished no lower than seventh in those five years.
"Honestly, I think (this) comes from leadership," Kindler said. "Our staff has been extremely passionate about this. I’ve even had people tell me that I could never ever do it at Oklahoma and, to them, I say, ‘You’re wrong.’ You can do anything if you put your mind and heart into it and our athletes follow our lead."
Oklahoma will wrap up a packed NCAA weekend tomorrow at the Individual Event Finals. The 2 p.m. meet will see OU gymnasts Lara Albright (FX), Chayse Capps (BB), Maile'ana Kanewa (V, FX), Haley Scaman (V, FX), and Taylor Spears (BB, UB) will all compete for a shot at an individual national championship on their respective events. The meet will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com.