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Oklahoma Athletics | March 29, 2014

No. 1 Oklahoma makes it three conference titles in a row, wins MPSF

  The Sooners' 446.100 finished well ahead of No. 3 Stanford with a 436.700.

NORMAN, Okla. -- No. 1 Oklahoma made it three conference titles in a row, scoring 446.100 points to claim the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) championship on Saturday in McCasland Field House.

The Sooners' 446.100 finished well ahead of No. 3 Stanford with a 436.700, followed by No. 9 California (427.150) and No. 10 Air Force (425.650).

The 2014 championship is the 21st conference title in program history and 12th in the past 15 years under head coach Mark Williams.

"We started a little slow and were shaky there, but floor got us back on track; we were awesome," Williams said. "We got ourselves on a roll there, settled down, and the guys did a great job on pommel horse which was pivotal because it could have gone either way."

Three Sooners were awarded individual conference titles including Raymond White on floor (15.500), Michael Squires on still rings (16.300), and Kanji Oyama on vault (15.300). Oklahoma has now boasted at least one conference champion each of the last 31 years dating back to 1984.

OU started slow, falling twice on high bars to finish with a total of 71.750. Junior William Clement, last year's MPSF champ, recorded a career high of 15.300 to take second on the day. Another highlight of Oklahoma was junior Jacoby Rubin scoring a 14.650 in only his second time on the competing this season.

Oklahoma shook out the cobwebs on its top event, coming back with a big 76.300 on floor exercise. The top-ranked team in the nation in the event, the Sooners cruised behind White and freshman Colin Van Wicklen, who recorded a 15.350 to tie a career high, and a 15.250 by senior Presten Ellsworth.

After the first two rotations, Oklahoma was in the lead with a score of 148.050. It never looked back, dominating the competition for the rest of the meet.

On pommel horse, the team recorded a 73.100 led by junior Michael Reid with a 14.800. White and Sergey Resnick tied for second among the Sooners, both posting identical 14.700 scores.

Perhaps the best rotation of the night was still rings for the Sooners, who racked up a team score of 75.950, a program best this year. Defending conference and national champion Michael Squires reclaimed his title with a huge routine that resulted in a 16.300, a personal best and the highest rings score in OU program history.

"Earlier in the meet when Dennis Zaremski of Stanford got a 16.150, tying my career high, knowing that I'd have to go beat him, I was sweating bullets," Squires said. "I was trying to stay as calm and thoughtless as I could before my set. But as I was walking around getting ready for my set I thought, You can beat him. You're worked hard for this, you've done all the preparation, if you need a career high then why not make it this moment?

"So I was able to calm myself down before I went up," Squires continued. "I remembered at the very end as I was doing my last giant before my dismount I had this really weird feeling that I was going to stick before I even let go for my dismount. I don't know how to describe it; it's crazy. The next thing I know I'm standing up saluting the judges. I honestly don't even remember the dismount."

Two other OU gymnasts posted career highs, including Oyama with a 15.200 to take third overall and junior Danny Berardini at 15.100, placing fifth.

Vault was another highlight for the Sooners, as they tied a season-high team score with a 75.250 thanks to all five gymnasts finishing in the top seven on the leaderboard. Oyama’s outstanding 15.300 led the event after the sophomore was placed in the lineup in the middle of the meet. Van Wicklen added a 15.100 to combine with Ellsworth at 15.050, Alec Robin at 14.950 and White at 14.850.

"We got more comfortable as we got into rings and vault and felt good enough to give Kanji the green light on the vault that he has been on and off on," Williams said. "But the meet's not over until the last guy lands which we learned at Metroplex when we sort of collapsed on the last event."

With the title all but wrapped up, OU closed out the competition on parallel bars. Contributing to the total score of 73.750 were Resnick with a 15.100 and Jacoby Rubin with a career-high mark of 14.850.

Up next for the Sooners is the NCAA championships in Ann Arbor, Mich., starting April 10 with the NCAA qualifier followed by the NCAA finals on Friday, April 11, and the individual event finals on April 12.

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