Women's gymnastics: Oklahoma wins second NCAA title
FORT WORTH, Texas — The motto for the Oklahoma women’s gymnastics squad this year was to make it count. On Saturday night, the Sooners did just that.
With a 197.6750, the No. 1-seeded Sooners secured the 2016 NCAA Championship inside Fort Worth Convention Center. The title was their second all-time, with the first coming in 2014. The Super Six appearance was OU’s sixth in the last seven seasons and in each of those, OU has now finished within the top three nationally.
The victory made history in the gymnastics world as Oklahoma became the first school in history to win both the women’s and men’s national titles in the same season. Earlier on Saturday night, the men’s team rolled to the 2016 crown in Columbus, Ohio.
“What do you say? One of girls this morning, when she woke up, tweeted, ‘It felt like Christmas Eve last night—I couldn’t got to bed anticipating today,' It turns out that’s the exactly what it was," 10th-year OU head coach K.J. Kindler. "Christmas Day is always a wonderful day when you’re a kid. Today was just an amazing and wonderful day for these ladies and our entire team. They had to fight for it. We learned a lot last year, I think, and they applied it today."
No. 3 seed LSU came in second place with a 197.4500, No. 4 Alabama (197.4375) finished third and No. 2 Florida (197.3500), who shared the 2014 title with OU, placed fourth. No. 8 UCLA (196.8250) and No. 10 Georgia (196.8125) rounded out the standings.
MORE: Full Super Six results
With the meet close entering the final rotation, Oklahoma rose to the occasion, using a little bit of Sooner Magic to turn in a 49.5750 on floor. The clinching routine came from sophomore AJ Jackson in the No. 5 spot, whose 9.9125 pushed the Sooners to the top of the leaderboard.
In the anchor position, senior Haley Scaman stepped in and closed out her decorated OU career with a 9.95, the best floor score of the night. Sophomore Natalie Brown set the tone for the rotation with a 9.9, and junior Chayse Capps followed her performance with a 9.9125. Junior Charity Jones and senior Keeley Kmieciak recorded marks of 9.9 and 9.8625, respectively.
On vault, the Sooners started the meet with 49.225, their second-lowest score of the season on the event, but they still held the early advantage after the first rotation. Jackson paced the Sooners, anchoring with a 9.9, and Scaman contributed a strong 9.85 right before her. Senior Hunter Price scored a 9.8375 in the No. 2 slot. Jones led off on the apparatus with a 9.825, and Capps contributed a 9.8125 to the team score.
"Vault was not what we’re capable of, but instead of letting it break ‘em down, they came back stronger and fought on bars, beam and floor all the way to the very end," Kindler shared. "It was a fight. That meet was super close. I don’t know if they knew or felt how close it was. We certainly knew as coaches, and we tried to stay loose, of course, and give them the best opportunity to just go free and do what they could do."
The Sooners came out of their bye looking sharp to post a big 49.4500 on bars, counting three scores of at least 9.9 from freshman Nicole Lehrmann, Capps and Scaman. Jackson opened the rotation with a 9.85, and Lehrmann followed it with a 9.9. In the No. 3 spot, Capps scored a team-best 9.925, while Scaman added a 9.9. Kmieciak scored a 9.825, and junior McKenzie Wofford anchored with a strong 9.8755.
Through three rotations with each team having competed on two events, Alabama sat atop the standings with a 98.7000, just ahead of OU’s 98.6750. Florida was in third place with a 98.5750, and Georgia held fourth at 98.5500. LSU (98.4625) and UCLA (98.2875) completed the standings.
The Sooners carried their momentum to beam, tallying a 49.4250. Capps anchored with a stuck dismount to put an exclamation point on the rotation and earn a 9.9375. Brown added a 9.925 following a beautiful routine. For the third straight meet, Lehrmann scored a 9.9, matching her career-best total. Jones scored a 9.85, and Kmieciak opened on the event with a 9.8125.
The meet capped a season in which the Sooners posted a 38-1-0 overall record, with their lone loss coming in their season opener. Nine Sooners earned a program-record 15 All-America honors following Friday’s semifinals. Additionally, OU won an unprecedented fifth straight Big 12 title and seventh consecutive regional crown.
"[I’m] just so proud of them. This is something, obviously, that they’ve wanted, that they’ve worked so hard for. Everyone in that room has worked hard, but this group in particular has a little extra something when it comes to their chemistry that I can’t really describe," Kindler said. "I’ve always believed that chemistry wins championships. They certainly are technically good. They certainly executed well. But, I really feel like that heart and that chemistry is what put them over the top at the end."