OU Wins 2006 National Championship

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Jonathan Horton had the best scores of his career on the parallel bars and the high bar to win the all-around title and lead Oklahoma to its second straight NCAA men's gymnastics championship Friday night.

The Sooners got career-bests from Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons (9.525), Russell Czeschin (9.575) and Reed Pitts (9.250) for a school-record 37.85 points on the vault to clinch the title in the final rotation.

Oklahoma, which completed an undefeated season, has won four of the last five national championships - the best run since Nebraska won five in a row fromf"I've been nervous for two weeks,'' Oklahoma coach Mark Williams said. "I'm so glad the team responded to this challenge. We were better than any vaulting team I've ever seen.''

The Sooners finished with a season-high 221.4 points. Illinois was second with 220.975 and was followed by Stanford (218.375), Penn State (215.125), California (215.0) and Iowa (211.8)

Horton, who won the American Cup last month, scored a 9.525 on the parallel bars and a 9.8 on the high bar in his first two events. He stumbled in the fourth rotation with a 7.95 on the pommel horse but then finished strong with a 9.7 on the rings and a 9.5 on the vault.

"When you make a mistake, it fuels your fury and I couldn't have felt more powerful heading into the still rings,'' Horton said.

Horton fell twice on the pommel horse in Thursday's qualifying round and fell once on the apparatus in the finals.

"He was unbelievable,'' Williams said. ``At one point I thought pommel horse would be too much to overcome. He responded and it was amazing.''

Horton finished with 56.0 points to edge Illinois' Justin Spring for the all-around title. Spring, who won the Nissen-Emery Award on Wednesday as the nation's top senior gymnast, scored 55.6.

Oklahoma was the runner-up to Penn State in 2004, the only time in the past five years it didn't win the title. Individual event championships will be held Saturday.

Seven Sooners qualified for 14 spots in Saturday night's NCAA Event Finals that determines All-America honors.  In 2005, six Sooners combined for 13 All-America honors including Horton who won All-America honors on five events.