OU Women's Gymnastics Repeats At NCAAs
Make that three.
The Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team posted a 198.3875 in the Super Six to claim the national title at the 2017 NCAA Championships. The meet, which featured the top six NCAA seeds, was held inside Chaifetz Arena on Saturday night.
The national title is the second straight and third overall for the Sooners, who tied with Florida in 2014 for the crown before winning outright in 2016. OU rolled from the beginning with dominating 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 and a 49.4875 on vault.
The Sooners' 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.
Oklahoma was followed by No. 2 seed LSU in second place (197.7375), while Florida claimed third (197.2625). UCLA earned fourth place (197.2625), followed by Utah (196.5875) and Alabama (196.000).
Saturday marked OU’s fifth straight and seventh overall trip to the team finals. In each of their seven Super Six appearances, the Sooners have finished within the top three.
"Our coaching staff really worked hard to come up with a way to flip the switch on our team coming off kind of an average performance for us yesterday," Kindler said. "It was tumultuous and really tough, actually. We met four times last night and this morning just trying to get our team in the right mindset. What was the way to do that?
“We had an amazing meeting this 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. 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."
Out of a first-rotation bye, the Sooners competed with purpose on bars, posting a 49.5875 on the event. All six competitors posted at least a 9.8875 en route to the mark, led by a 9.95 from Nichols in the anchor spot. Sophomores Brenna Dowell and Nicole Lehrmann contributed back-to-back 9.925s, while junior Stefani Catour posted a 9.9 in the No. 2 spot. Senior Chayse Capps set the tone with a 9.8875, a mark matched by classmate McKenzie Wofford as the fifth competitor.
OU carried its momentum right over to beam, turning in a stunning 49.7000. The mark stands as the second-highest score in program history on the event. All six Sooners shined yet again, with each one scoring at least a 9.875.
Nichols impressed with a 10.0, her third perfect mark on the apparatus this season and seventh overall. It is just the fourth 10.0 ever scored on beam at the NCAA Championships and the first earned in the Super Six. Later in the meet, UCLA’s Christine Peng-Peng Lee also scored a 10.0 on beam. The scores were the first 10.0s scored on the event at the championships since Georgia’s Courtney Kupets earned one in 2009.
In their final beam routines as Sooners, Capps recorded a 9.95 to wrap up the rotation, while Charity Jones opened with a 9.875 on the event. Junior Natalie Brown matched her career high with a 9.95 in the fourth spot on the event, while Catour contributed a 9.9125 and Lehrmann added a 9.8875.
OU added a 49.6125 on floor, paced by 9.95s from both Nichols and junior AJ Jackson to close the rotation. Capps contributed a 9.9125, while Brown and Dowell both went 9.9 on the event. Jones started on the event with a 9.875 to jump start the Sooners on the event.
On vault, the Sooners concluded the meet with a strong 49.4875, led by a 9.9625 from Nichols in the anchor spot and a season-high-matching 9.95 from Jackson. Dowell went 9.875 as the fourth competitor, while sophomore Alex Marks and Capps started off the rotation with identical marks of 9.85. Freshman Jade Degouveia provided a 9.8375 in the No. 2 spot.
“We had just amazing performance after amazing performance," Kindler said. "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.”
The national title is the culmination of a spectacular season in which OU posted a perfect 33-0 record, 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 straight 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.