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Chelsey Kraft | Oklahoma Athletics | April 2, 2016

Oklahoma gymnastics advances to NCAAs with Iowa City regional win

IOWA CITY, Iowa — For the seventh straight season, the No. 1 Oklahoma women's gymnastics team has claimed a regional title, doing so in 2016 with a 197.575 at the NCAA Iowa City Regional on Saturday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

With the regional win, the Sooners advance to the NCAA Championships for the 13th consecutive season. OU posted the top team score and captured individual honors on all four events.

"Great energy. Cool confidence. Incredible spirit. That pretty much sums it up," OU head coach K.J. Kindler said of her team's performance.

Junior Chayse Capps shined for the Sooners, picking up three individual titles. The Plano, Texas, native placed first in the all-around with a 39.550 and claimed first on vault with a 9.9. She also tied for top accolades on beam with teammates sophomore Natalie Brown and freshman Nicole Lehrmann, Mollie Drenth of Iowa and Grace Williams of Nebraska.

On bars, junior McKenzie Wofford posted a 9.95, the highest score of the meet on any event, to claim her first regional title, and sophomore AJ Jackson tied for first on floor with Nebraska's Hollie Blanske with scores of 9.9.

Additionally, Capps was recognized as the South Central Region Gymnast of the Year after the meet, while Kindler snagged South Central Region Coach of the Year honors.

Finishing in second place with a 196.550, No. 12 Nebraska will advance to the national meet with the Sooners. No. 13 Arkansas took third with a 195.500, while No. 19 Iowa finished fourth with a 195.450. Central Michigan claimed fifth place (194.675) and Kent State placed sixth (194.525).

After being on a bye during the first rotation, the Sooners continued their success this season on bars, posting yet another strong showing on the apparatus to open the meet with a 49.575. The total ties for the fifth-best in program history, and in 2016, OU has now set five of its 10 all-time best marks on the event.

In the anchor position, Wofford recorded a meet-best 9.95, the seventh time this season she has posted that mark and her 12th time to score at least a 9.9. Freshman Nicole Lehrmann and senior Keeley Kmieciak contributed marks of 9.925, while Capps tallied a 9.9. Jackson led off with a solid 9.85, and senior Haley Scaman scored a 9.875 in the No. 4 slot.

"A phenomenal start for our team on bars," Kindler said. "Landings and casts were on point, and the level of focus and enthusiasm coming out of the bye was exactly what we needed."

The Sooners moved to beam for the next rotation, where they scored a 49.425, matching their fourth-best total of the season. Sophomore Natalie Brown, Capps and Lehrmann paced the Sooners on beam with a trio of 9.9s. The score was a career high for Lehrmann, and it marked the 12th straight time that Capps has scored at least a 9.9 this season. Junior Charity Jones posted a 9.875 in the No. 5 spot, Kmieciak led off with a 9.85 and sophomore Stefani Catour recorded a 9.825.

"We gave up very little on beam," Kindler shared. "It was exciting to see the landings so solid and the performances so aggressive."

On floor, Jackson posted the highest total for OU, a 9.9, as the Sooners recorded a 49.300 on the event. Brown, Capps and Kmieciak opened the rotation by scoring three straight 9.85s for the Sooners, and Scaman added the same total in the anchor position. Jones scored a 9.8 in the No. 4 spot for OU.

For its final rotation, OU moved to vault, where it scored a 49.275. Capps tallied a team-high 9.9 on the apparatus, and Scaman posted a 9.875 in the No. 5 spot. Senior Hunter Price and Kmieciak contributed back-to-back 9.85s. Jones started with a 9.8, and Jackson closed with a 9.75.

"Floor and vault had great energy," Kindler stated. "Finishing on these events the way they did is a testament to their endurance and fitness."

Oklahoma and Nebraska advance to the 2016 NCAA Championships in Fort Worth, Texas on April 15 and 16. The Sooners are the No. 1 seed overall and will contend for the program’s sixth Super Six appearance when they compete in Semifinal II on April 15.

"You can never take for granted the opportunity to move on to the NCAA Finals," Kindler said. "We are grateful and pumped to head back to the gym to prepare."

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