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The Heart, the Drive and the Willpower
April 24, 2014
Jennifer Richardson
ATC, Assistant Athletic Trainer (OU Women's Gymnastics)

I have experienced two other women’s gymnastics national championships prior to this, both when I worked at the University of Georgia.

The day after our championship this year, the girls asked me if this title was better than the ones I won at Georgia.

All the championships were great, but for different reasons.

In 2005 at Georgia, we had lost four meets in a row heading into nationals. The team was broken; I was basically taping them together to keep them on the floor. We went in as a 12 seed and we were not supposed to win, but they won.

In 2006, we were the number one seed, we were supposed to win, and we won. It was exciting, but it was expected.

This 2014 Oklahoma team possessed a lot of what those teams had as well—it was a combination of the two. Heading into the postseason, they were healthy, talented and deep. On the flip side, though they were ranked highly, they were regarded as underdogs. I believe that fueled their fire.

I think all of the media’s talk and the discussion about Florida, Alabama, LSU and the SEC gave our team drive. They didn’t feel they had to prove anything to anyone, but they wanted to show everyone what they were capable of doing.

Kindler and Mooring

Everything they did in the fall was focused on improving last season’s runner-up finish—that was their motivation. Even when they were exhausted and weary, you could tell: they were on a mission. You could look at this team and tell they had what it took to be national champions. But would they do it?

There was more pressure on everyone this year because we knew it was possible. It was intense. We could see what the kids were capable of doing and the coaches wanted it so badly for them.

Just one week before the season started, we had three gymnasts go down with injuries within a single week. That’s when this team realized it was going to take everybody to make it happen. If they were called on to compete, they had to be ready. If the next week, they were moved to the alternate position, there were never tears or animosity. They kept pushing forward and supporting one another. That’s incredibly hard to do, and many teams don’t share those characteristics.

As the season wore on, you could see the relationships spreading out between classes. They would joke, laugh, pick on each other. It was a true sisterhood. If someone was having a rough day, someone else would know how to pull them out of their funk. They have a sister-like relationship with each and every one of each other.

It truly hit home for them at Big 12s. When they hit despite a variety of circumstances—illnesses, long travel—when they pushed and fought through, they began to see what was possible.

The talk started to occur outside of the gym: they could see themselves winning a national championship.

Our girls fed off each other. They fed off those positive attitudes the entire weekend at nationals. There was never a moment where they had to try to pick someone up because they were down on themselves. They hit 56-for-56 routines all weekend. No other team in the country can say that.

At Super Six, when we got close enough to see it was going to happen, K.J. (Kindler) looked at me and said, “This could actually happen.” I said, “Yeah, it’s going to happen!”

The light in her eyes put tears in mine. I know all they have gone through as a staff in the last eight years and how much they have poured into these kids. These are their children. They would do anything for these kids.

team celebration

We do everything we can—we put our hearts on the line—because these kids matter to us that much. To see them that happy is like seeing your own child happy. Words can’t even describe it.

There’s just something that national championship teams have. It’s cliché to say this team had the ‘it-factor,’ but they did.

Our team had the depth, the chemistry, the drive, the motivation, the determination, the heart, the willpower to do everything that needed to be done.

Jenn Richardson has been the athletic trainer for the Oklahoma women's gymnastics team since 2007.

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