April 24, 2010
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The Hollie Vise journey has come full circle. In the final two routines of her gymnastics career in Saturday's NCAA Individual Event Finals, Vise provided a pair of masterpieces in the grand finale like she had done countless times over her lengthy gymnastics tenure, capping the end of a spectacular collegiate career that ended must faster than it began.
Vise competed on both bars and floor in Saturday's meet, placing second in the country on both events.
Truth be told, the results were inconsequential. Just getting to tonight's individual event finals was a feat in itself for a gymnast that arrived on campus four years ago unable to do even the simplest of gymnastics skills.
The 2003 World Champion on bars and '04 Olympic hopeful entered the Oklahoma program two years removed from spending any considerable time competitively training when she came to Norman in the fall of 2006.
"I did have some gymnastics issues when I arrived at OU, simple because I took a lot of time off between 2004 and 2006," said Vise. "I wasn't the little girl that I was when I was competing elite. It was a major challenge coming back, making sure I wasn't trying to compare myself to where I was during my younger days."
2010 National Coach of the Year K.J. Kindler highlighted the acclimation process in an interview with Inside Gymnastics Magazine earlier this spring.
"You know, through all the ups and downs, Hollie has embraced this experience," said Kindler. "I know a lot of people said she wasn't very serious about college gymnastics because she didn't stay in shape or come in prepared. But I think she's proving them wrong. People are saying it's a shame she couldn't have been like this from day one but, you know, I don't think I want that Hollie. I want this one. She's gone through so much and she's had to push. And it's been a struggle; coming from where she was when she came in that door, to be quite honest. She's learned life lessons and I think she's a better person because of it.
"I knew she was an amazing gymnast and I expected that from her, on all four events, not one or two. I think that was shocking. But once she knew that it was that or the highway, she pushed through and we have a great relationship. I think she respects [me] and I certainly respect the hard work she's gone through to get to this point."
After her most dedicated summer training session, Vise captained the Sooners to their second undefeated regular season in three years, a third consecutive Big 12 title, Northeast Regional crown and a program-best runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships in OU's first Super Six appearance in program history on Friday.
Even more remarkable is how she went about it during her senior sendoff. Strictly a bars and beam specialist through her junior season, Vise averaged a 9.85 on floor during her senior campaign, finding a spot in the lineup in every event in 2010. She even added a vault to her collegiate repertoire, sticking a 9.85 on Senior Night against Washington that brought an appreciative Oklahoma contingent to its feet, knowing full well the trials and tribulations Vise had overcome. The score catapulted Vise to a 39.600 in her only all-around appearance - which fittingly resulted in the all-around title.
Vise's postseason struggles during her first three years had overshadowed an otherwise remarkable journey from the depths of the deepest gymnastics pit to one of the Big 12s top gymnasts. Those setbacks were erased from memory this season as Vise captured conference titles on bars, beam and floor, becoming just the third gymnast in Big 12 history to win three individual titles at a championship.
Vise backed up her strong conference showing with the beam title at the NCAA Northeast Regional.
With an inaugural Super Six appearance hanging in the balance, Vise scored a career-high-tying 9.925 in her first-ever floor routine in a NCAA Championships competition during the qualifying session on Thursday en route to one of three All-America honors for Vise (bars, beam and floor exercise) and a spot in event finals on both bars and floor.
|FINAL RESULTS | PHOTOS|
Vise nailed a 9.925 on bars and added a 9.9 on floor in Saturday's performances, hearkening back memories of her Elite days. First was a flawless bars set that included Vise's notoriously perfect form and hit angles. Second came a floor finale that looked comfortable enough that one could have mistaken it as if she had been competing the routine for four years like the majority of her competition on the apparatus. Vise opened with a sky-high double pike, added a whip ½ front full middle pass and closed with a Rudi that brought a round of applause from fans of all teams in the audience.
The result was a pair of runner-up finishes in the highest finish by a Sooner in the individual event finals since Kelly Garrison won national titles on bars and beam in 1988. Vise shared second on bars with LSU's Summer Hubbard, while Stanford's Carly Janiga won the national title with a 9.9375. The floor title went to UCLA's Brittani McCullough (9.9375), while Missouri's Sara Shire and Penn State's Brandi Personett tied Vise for second place.
Vise took a moment to soak in the scene after her final floor routine, waving to the crowd and giving a fist pump to the OU section as she donned a leotard for the final time.
"My teammates are my best friends and my coaches have helped me so much inside and outside of the gym during my time at Oklahoma. Competing in college has made me love the sport all over again."