Sooners Kick Off Official Practice Monday

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma

After four months away, the defending NCAA National Champion Oklahoma women's gymnastics team kicked off the 2017-18 preseason with the goal in mind of winning its third straight and fourth overall title.

The squad participated in its first official practice on Monday inside the Sam Viersen Gymnastics Center, with a new look to the team as six newcomers joined a squad that saw six seniors depart after the 2017 season.

Below are thoughts from some of the Sooners on the formal start of their new season.

Senior Natalie Brown

On going into her senior season:
“It's really crazy because it feels like I just got here, but I'm really excited for my last year. Our goal is the same, but a little different every year, so I'm excited to see what this team is going to bring."

On what they need to do during preseason in order to repeat:
“The pressure is always there no matter what. There's always going to be pressure but that makes us perform better. Even though we went back-to-back, it's a different team and it's a new year. The goal is the same, but you have to take it day by day and not focus on that. It's more about the work we put into it and that's what wins championships.

On being a mentor to the freshmen class:
"I'm really working on making them feel comfortable and helping them out in the gym. I remember when I was a freshman, it's really crazy with school starting and being overwhelmed so we just want to make the freshmen feel comfortable and know that we're really happy that they're a part of our team."

Senior Samantha Craus

On what she's hoping for in her senior season:
“Personally, I just want to be more in the moment and enjoy the process. I don't want to necessarily look toward the end goal, but enjoy each step along the way and being a part of this team one last year. These girls are your family, so I'm just going to enjoy the ride with them"

On it being the official start to preseason:
“It's really nice now we have actual assignments so you can track your progress better as opposed to just doing what you think you need to do."

Junior Alex Marks

On what they need to do during preseason in order to repeat:
"Honestly, I try not to think about it and just take it one step at a time and trust the process. That's been our thing the last two years is just trusting the process and doing what it takes to become a national champion. We had a meeting before preseason and the coaches told us that we didn't win the national championship just on that night, we won it through preseason and all the work we put in during the season. That's what I'm trying to focus on now and not thinking too far into the future."

On what she is looking forward to most in preseason:
"I like having the structure. I like being told what to do because I feel like I have more of a purpose. In the summer it's always kind of hard, because you might be tired, but now they're going to be pushing you to be your best."

Junior Brenna Dowell

On the mindset going into preseason:
“The mindset going into preseason is that every year is a new year. We have a new team, we lost six seniors and gained six new comers so the team dynamic is definitely different. We know that what happened last year doesn't necessarily carry over into this year but we know from last year what it takes to become national champions. We're trying to teach the newcomers the hard work and the dedication that it takes so that we can do it again."

On setting an example for the newcomers:
“It's definitely been a different experience being an upperclassman. I definitely feel like I have more of an influence and a voice over the team. I'm going to try to steer the freshmen in the right direction and set a good example based on what I do at practice and outside of the gym as well."

Sophomore Maggie Nichols

On what she is looking forward to most in preseason:
“I'm really looking forward to just growing closer with the team, especially with the freshmen and just adjusting to the new team and the new lineups. It's exciting to get going and to start competing again. I'm going to try to improve on my consistency and just helping the team as much as I can."

On going into her second season with the team:
“I was very intimidated last season just because I didn't know what to expect. This year is kind of nice because I know what to expect and I know what's going on at the competitions so I'm really confident going in to this season.

Freshman Jordan Draper

On adjusting to college life:
“It's been a little bit difficult to adjust, but my teammates and coaches have helped me a lot. All the resources we have here at OU are super helpful so my transition has been pretty easy."

On going into her first preseason at OU:
“I'm very excited. I have a little bit of nerves but I'm also super excited. The team chemistry is really good and we have six newcomers so it's definitely a new team. Every team is different, but I'm really excited for us to grow as teammates and become more like sisters."