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OU women repeat as gymnastics national champs

Mark Buckner / NCAA Photos
Oklahoma’s women’s gymnastics team celebrates its second straight national championship.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Sooners women’s gymnastics team won its second straight national championship Saturday night at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis. The Sooners have earned their third title in the last four years )they tied with Florida for the 2014 national championship.) The final meet, known as the Super Six, features the top six seeds.

The Sooners’ score of 198.3875 set the NCAA record for a team score in a Super Six, topping the previous mark established by OU and Florida (198.1750) at the 2014 NCAA Championships. The first two events the Sooners competed in gave the Sooners a lead that they did not relinquish

OU dominated with performances on bars (49.5875) and beam (49.7000) to open the meet. From there, they never looked back, recording a 49.6125 on floor exercise and a 49.4875 on vault.

“We had just amazing performance after amazing performance,” said OU head coach K.J. Kindler. “It felt crazy, really. I almost felt like I wasn’t here—it was that amazing. To have that kind of a performance from a coaching standpoint, wow. As an athlete, to be in that state of mind and to get your body to do what they got their bodies to do tonight over and over and over, performance after performance—I don’t think you see that very often, and I don’t know if we’ve done it at the national championship before the way we did tonight. It’s just a really special night.”

OU posted a perfect 33-0 record during the season, its first undefeated season in program history. The Sooners also secured an unprecedented sixth straight Big 12 Championship and won an NCAA Regional title for the eighth consecutive year. On Friday night, Capps, Catour, Jackson, Lehrmann and Nichols combined for 12 All-America accolades, and Lehrmann and Nichols were co-national champions on bars.

No. 2 seed LSU placed second at the meet (197.7375), while Florida claimed third (197.2625). UCLA earned fourth place (197.2625), followed by Utah (196.5875) and Alabama (196.000).

Oklahoma freshman Maggie Nichols scored a perfect 10 on the balance beam, and OU scored a national championship record 49.7 on the beam. Nichols not only had the highest score on the balance beam, but she posted the highest score in the floor exercise (9.95 tied with teammate A.J. Jackson and gymnasts from two other teams).

Before the championship round started Saturday evening, the Sooners knew they had to be better than they were in the semifinals on Friday. After they had competed in semifinal session #1 with 197.725 points, they watched what LSU did in semifinal session #2 scoring 198.275.

“We saw how amazing LSU was and they really knocked it out of the park,” Kindler said. “Our coaching staff really worked hard to come up with a way to flip the switch for our team, coming off kind of an average performance for us (Friday).

“We had an amazing meeting(Saturday) morning,” Kindler continued. “It was very short and very sweet and pointed, and I felt like that really put them in more of a freedom state of mind. Coming in as a coaching staff, we talked about that first bar routine, that very first dismount, was going to be huge for us, and Chayse (Capps) sets the tone for the whole meet since she’s first off on bars (9.88875). She was having trouble on her dismount, actually, all warmup, but meet time, she just flipped a switch and nailed that dismount, and they were just rolling.”

Last year, OU became the first school to claim a national championship in women’s and men’s gymnastics in the same year. It might happen again this year, as the No. 1 and undefeated men compete next weekend at the Holleder Center’s Christl Arena on the campus of Army West Point.

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Ray Dozier

Ray Dozier is the author of Legends of Oklahoma Sooners Football and two editions of The...

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