Oklahoma goes for its sixth title in 11 years; tickets are just $10 for adults and $5 for youths and students.
April 20, 2012
By Andrew Gilman | SoonerSports.com
NORMAN, Okla. -- Top-ranked and comfortable, the Oklahoma gymnastics team is now hours away from competing for the school’s ninth NCAA championship.
Top-ranked because OU has put together an 18-1 season, a perfect conference mark and holders of the No. 1 ranking for 10 of the 12 weeks of the season.
Comfortable because OU is competing for the national championship inside the familiar confines of the Lloyd Noble Center. Tickets are just $10 for adults and $5 for youths and students.
Thursday, the Sooners showed they were worthy of the top seed as they advanced to Friday’s team finals, finishing in the top three of the six teams in their qualifying session.
“Some events we exceeded our expectations, other events we still have room to get better,” OU coach Mark Williams said. “I was pleased.”
The Sooners, along with Illinois and California advanced out of the six-team evening session. Stanford, Michigan and Penn State advanced from the afternoon session.
The team finals will begin at 7 on Friday night.
“All we wanted to do is hit our routines and make it to tomorrow,” OU junior Jake Dalton said.
The Sooners did that with team wins on four of the six events, including the pommel horse, floor, vault and rings. Meanwhile, Sooner Patrick Piscitelli won the vault and Dalton won the parallel bars.
“We had a little bit of nerves on high bar and the young guys were a little jittery,” Williams said.
However, Williams also said he expected the Sooners and the crowd will perform even better on Friday.
“I don’t know that it made a huge difference,” Williams said. “It might tomorrow. The people understand that. They’ll be here to support us. We didn’t want to get the emotions too high ,and we just felt like we could be in the top three. I told guys to be a little conservative in their emotions.
“We can be better with the energy from the crowd.”
That’s what Dalton and Piscitelli said they were counting on for Friday, too.
“It adds a little pressure,” Piscitelli said. “But I’ve never had a host meet before. I’m stoked and it is an advantage.”
Dalton, the NCAA’s top-ranked gymnast this season, is in line to defend his NCAA titles from last year on the floor and vault. He will also be competing in the all-around competition.
More importantly, the Sooners have eight national titles. A ninth is definitely within reach.
“It feels like home here,” Dalton said. “The last two times we’ve been here, we’ve won, so there’s that pressure, but we like it a lot.”