Top-seeded OU looks to win its third straight regional title Saturday in Champaign.
April 5, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. --The second-ranked Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team will compete for one of 12 spots at the NCAA Championships on Saturday, April 7, as the No. 1 seed at the 2012 NCAA Champaign Regional at Assembly Hall on the University of Illinois campus.
OU is joined in the Champaign Regional with two-seed Stanford, three-seed Denver, four-seed Illinois, five-seed Kentucky and six-seed Illinois-Chicago.
The Sooners earned the regional’s top seed after winning their fourth Big 12 title in five seasons and finishing the season with a regional qualifying score of 197.360.
The top two teams from each regional will advance to the NCAA Championships, April 20-22, in Duluth, Ga., to compete for the 2012 national title.
No. 2 seed and 11th-ranked Stanford finished fourth at the Pac-12 Championships on March 24 in Salt Lake City, despite scoring a season-high 196.825 points. The Cardinal had two individual champions and had 11 scores of 9.9 or above.
Three-seed Denver is coming off its first Western Athletic Conference Championship on Saturday, scoring a 196.350 on its way to victory. The Pioneers have scored a 196 of higher in five or their last six meets.
No. 4 seed and host Illinois was the runner-up in the afternoon session of the Big 10 Championship with its second-best score this season of 195.850, which was just .025 behind Michigan (195.875) for the top spot.
Fifth-seeded Kentucky finished in fifth place out of seven teams, tying the best finish in school history at the Southeastern Conference Championships, while No. 6 seed UIC placed second (194.725) in the five-team field at the Midwest Independent Conference Championship.
ON THE WEB
Fans can follow the action via live video and live scoring provided at FightingIllini.com. Fans can watch a live broadcast as well as live video of each individual event. Follow the links in the table above for more information.
GYMNAST TO WATCH - MEGAN FERGUSON
Ferguson was named Big 12 Event Specialist of the Year last week and won the Big 12 championship on both bars and beam with scores of 9.925 and 9.95 respectively. Ferguson is also one of six AAI Award finalists. The AAI Award is voted on by NCAA coaches and is given to the country's most outstanding senior gymnast.
The top two teams from all six NCAA regionals will earn a spot at the 2012 NCAA Championships, April 20-22 in Duluth, Ga. The 12 teams that qualify will compete in two separate semifinal sessions on Friday, April 20. The top three finishers in both semifinals will advance to the NCAA Super Six Team Final to contend for the 2012 national championship. on Saturday, April 21.
LAST TIME OUT
OU won its fifth Big 12 Championship Saturday with a season-high score of 197.475 in front of the home crowd at the Lloyd Noble Center. OU finished ahead of Iowa State and Missouri who tied for second with a 196.025. Oklahoma won its fourth conference title in five seasons while junior Brie Olson won the all-around title in her first career all-around appearance and senior Megan Ferguson won the individual titles on bars and beam.
IN ELITE COMPANY
OU is one of just four schools in the country to qualify for the NCAA Championships each of the last eight seasons. Alabama, Florida and Utah have also accomplished the feat. The Sooners look to qualify for their ninth-straight NCAA Championships Saturday in Champaign. OU has qualified for the NCAA Championships every year since the arrival of current head coach K.J. Kindler in 2007.
Head coach K.J. Kindler was named 2012 Big 12 Coach of the Year while Megan Ferguson was named Big 12 Event Specialist of the Year (award for non-all-arounders). Ferguson was also named one of six finalists for the AAI Award. The award is voted on by the NCAA coaches and is given to the nation’s most outstanding senior gymnast.
Just three days before the 2012 Big 12 Championship, OU All-American Kayla Nowak suffered an injury in practice. Nowak has competed bars, beam and floor in all 12 of OU’s regular season meets and competed the all-around against Alabama for OU. The Sooners were forced to replace a three-event competitor with first-time competitors for the second time this season (freshman Rebecca Clark suffered a season-ending injury in early February). Olson competed beam and the all-around for the first time in her career and ended up winning the Big 12 all-around title with a 39.500. Olson scored a 9.85 on beam. Candace Cindell competed bars for the first time this season in Nowak’s place and posted a career-high 9.9, while Taylor Spears scored a 9.85 on floor in place of Nowak.
197 AND COUNTING
OU is the only team in the NCAA this season to break the 197-mark seven times this season, four of which have come away from Norman. With the 197.450 at TWU on Jan. 21, OU became the first program in the country to break the 197-mark on the road this year. The 197.475 at the Big 12 Championship was a program-best postseason score, was the fourth-highest team score in school history and was the second-highest score in the Kindler era.
Seniors Megan Ferguson and Sara Stone have provided consistency and stability for the Sooners in 2012. Combined, Ferguson and Stone won or shared 27 event titles, set or tied 11 career-highs and scored a 9.9 or higher in 37 routines. Ferguson has posted a 9.9 or higher in 22 of her last 30 routines while Stone has scored a 9.9 or higher 15 times this year. Ferguson is ranked in the top three nationally on all three events she competes, while Stone leads the country on vault.
The Sooners swept all 11 Big 12 Event Specialist of the Week honors of 2012, the first team to ever win all of one award in conference history. Megan Ferguson won the award five times, Sara Stone was Specialist of the Week three times, Brie Olson earned the award two times while Taylor Spears won the award once. OU won six additional weekly awards, four gymnast of the week honors (Brewer, Nowak and Spears) and two newcomer of the week honors (Brewer and Clark).
The Sooners’ upset over No. 2 Arkansas came just 48-hours after OU’s first regular season home loss since 2009. The Sooners fell to No. 9 Nebraska at the Lloyd Noble Center on Friday, Feb. 3 after counting a fall on floor in the final rotation. Two days later, OU upset No. 2 Arkansas on the road with its second-best score of the season. OU’s season-high score came one week after the Sooners regular-season win streak was snapped at No. 7 Oregon State on Jan. 13. OU posted a 197.450 at TWU to finish first at the Pioneers’ quad meet.
The first Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) rankings were released Monday, Feb. 27. RQS is determined by averaging each team’s three highest road scores and three next-best scores (with the highest score eliminated). This week, OU remained at No. 2 in the overall team rankings, behind No. 1 Florida. In event rankings, OU is ranked No. 1 on floor, No. 2 on beam, No. 4 on vault and No. 5 on bars. Megan Ferguson is ranked No. 1 on beam and floor and No. 2 on bars, while Sara Stone is No. 1 on vault.
HOME SWEET HOME
The Sooners are 48-3 in Norman under sixth-year head coach K.J. Kindler. One of OU’s three losses at home was to Alabama. Top-seeded Alabama knocked off the Sooners en route to the NCAA South Central Regional title in 2008. Among the 74 home wins since 2000 are notable victories over then-ranked No. 1 Alabama and then-No. 4 Florida in 2010.
The Sooners boast the highest road average of any team in the top 25. OU is one of just four teams in the NCAA to post above a 197 team score on the road and has done so four times. OU is 9-2 on the road, with its only losses coming to then-ranked No. 3 UCLA and No. 7 Oregon State. The Sooners upset No. 2 Arkansas in Fayetteville on Feb. 5 with their second best score of the season (197.425).
CLOSER LOOK AT OKLAHOMA IN 2012
OU starts the 2012 season ranked No. 4 in the GymInfo preseason coaches poll, behind No. 1 UCLA, No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Florida. The Sooners received two first place votes in the poll and tied OU’s program-best preseason ranking. The Sooners add five newcomers for 2012 and return an impressive 18 of 24 routines from the 2011 lineup, including nine All-American performances. Headlining OU’s returners are five-time All-American Megan Ferguson, two-time All-American Kayla Nowak and All-Americans Brie Olson and Sara Stone. Ferguson, Nowak Olson and Stone provide veteran leadership and experience that will be vital for the young Sooners. OU will be tested in 2012 with the loss of All-American Natasha Kelley and a challenging schedule. Kelley, who consistently scored in the 9.9s on vault, bars and beam, suffered a season-ending injury during preseason practice. The loss of Kelley’s talent and experience will challenge OU’s depth throughout the 2012 schedule, which includes 10 teams ranked in the preseason top 25 and five top 10 teams.
FOLLOW THE SOONERS
The OU gymnastics program maintains its own Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts, which are updated frequently with all of the latest news about the squad. Links to each of these pages as well as a behind-the-scenes blog can be found at www. SoonerSports.com.