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gymnastics-women-nc flag | March 22, 2014

Oklahoma captures seventh Big 12 championship

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Oklahoma captured the program's seventh Big 12 championship and 12th conference title overall, posting a conference-championship record 198.000 to defeat Iowa State and West Virginia. OU came out on fire and never relented as it topped ISU (196.650) and WVU (196.375) at the WVU Coliseum, earning the team's third effort of 198+ on the road this season.

Following the conclusion of the meet, Oklahoma sophomore Haley Scaman was named Big 12 Gymnast of the Year, and freshman Chayse Capps captured Newcomer of the Year accolades. Head coach K.J. Kindler earned Big 12 Coach of the Year honors after leading her Sooners through another outstanding regular season. ISU senior Camille Santerre-Gervais was the conference's Event Specialist of the Year.

The Sooners earned individual conference titles on three events. Maile'ana Kanewa posted a 9.95 on vault to become the Big 12 vault champion for the second season in a row. Taylor Spears earned a 9.95 on beam to capture the Big 12 beam title, and Scaman picked up a 9.95 on floor to win the conference's floor title.

Santerre-Gervais was bars champion with a 9.95, and West Virginia's Hope Sloanhoffer won the conference all-around title at 39.425.

The Sooners used the team's energy and adrenaline to their advantage in the first event of the afternoon, earning a 49.425 to begin the meet on a strong note. Momentum boosted Oklahoma's lineup: after three consecutive 9.825s to begin the lineup, the Sooners closed with a trio of successive routines that climbed up the scoring ranks. Lara Albright began the scoring uptick at the No. 4 position with a 9.9, her ninth effort of 9.9 or higher this season. Maile'ana Kanewa followed with a 9.925 in an infectiously energetic routine, and Scaman anchored with a 9.95 effort that captivated the WVU Coliseum crowd.

Oklahoma leapt out to a quick lead against ISU and WVU with its 49.425 effort. Iowa State was second after a 49.100 on bars, and WVU trailed in third with a 49.075 from vault.

OU's high energy carried to vault, where the Sooners posted of the team's finest outings of the season in a 49.575 effort that included five vaults of 9.9 or better. Four Oklahoma gymnasts stuck their landings in a dominant vaulting performance, led by Kanewa's stuck 9.95 in the No. 4 spot. Scaman anchored OU with a 9.925, while Madison Mooring, Kara Lovan and Chayse Capps each posted 9.9 vaults to aid Oklahoma's efforts.

The Sooners cracked the 99.000 mark with a 99.000 on the nose after two rotations to lead all teams. Iowa State was second with a 98.225 that included a 49.125 on beam, while WVU brought up third with a 98.125 after a 49.050 on bars.

The momentum just kept rolling for Oklahoma as it captured a 49.550 on bars, its second-highest mark of the season. OU hit six-for-six routines on the event and counted five scores of 9.9 or higher for the second event in a row. Senior Taylor Spears led the way with a 9.925 in the anchor position to go along with a 9.925 for Scaman in the No. 3 spot. Rebecca Clark led off with a 9.9, and Charity Jones followed with a 9.9 in the No. 2 spot to tie her career-best effort on the event. Keeley Kmieciak also earned a 9.9, adding to her list of strong performances on bars in the past three weeks.


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Alabama used a huge final rotation at the Southeastern Conference Championships on Saturday night to win its eighth SEC Championship.

Alabama scored a 197.875 in front of a raucous crowd in the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center to get past No. 1 Florida, which scored a 197.700. The Crimson Tide trailed by .125 going into the uneven bars while the Gators headed to the floor exercise. Alabama went on to score a 49.625, tying the school record on the uneven bars behind six scores of 9.9 or better, paced by junior Kaitlyn Clark’s career-best 9.975, while the Gators threw a 49.350 on the floor exercise.

Alabama started off the meet with a 49.275 on the balance beam, paced by 9.9s from freshman Aja Sims and senior Kim Jacob. On the floor exercise, the Crimson Tide closed the rotation out with three 9.9 or better scores including a 9.95 from senior Diandra Milliner which pushed Alabama to a 49.425 team score.

Alabama posted four 9.9 or better routines to finish off its vault rotation, including a 9.975 from Milliner, her second of the season.

Big Ten

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Michigan won its 21st conference title (20 meet, one regular season) on Saturday, posting a team score of 197.550 during the first session of the Big Ten championships inside Rec Hall. It is the program's first win at the conference championships since 2011, and the squad is the first team to win Big Tens when competing in the afternoon session after U-M's score held up to best runner-up Nebraska's 196.950 from Saturday evening.

Senior Joanna Sampson won a pair of conference titles, winning uneven bars outright (9.925) and sharing floor exercise with Nebraska's Emily Wong, as both gymnasts recorded perfect 10.0s. Freshman Nicole Artz was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

It is the highest postseason score in 10 years and is the fourth-highest postseason score in program history. The Wolverines capped their performances in the afternoon with a program-best score of 49.700 on floor exercise, a new program record. Sampson is the first U-M gymnast in program history to earn a 10.0 on floor exercise in any postseason competition, the first U-M gymnast since Kylee Botterman to post a 10.0 on any event (2011 -- vault) and the first gymnast in Big Ten championships history to record a 10.0 on floor exercise. All five counted scores went at 9.900 or higher: 9.900 from junior Sachi Sugiyama, 9.925s from Artz and senior Reema Zakharia, 9.950 from fifth-year senior Natalie Beilstein and the perfect 10.0 from Sampson.

The Wolverines got the benefit of rotating in Olympic order and started strong, scoring 49.350 on vault. Sheppard, the team's anchor all season, electrified the crowd with a powerful Yurchenko Full to receive a 9.950 from the four-judge panel. Two former Big Ten vault champions were also in the lineup, as Beilsteinstuck her Yurchenko 1.5 to score 9.925, while Sugiyama nearly stuck her own, receiving a 9.875. Sampson went fifth in the order, scoring 9.850, while the last score came from Artz, who, despite being a late add to the lineup, scored 9.750 in only her third vault of the season.


BERKELEY, Calif. -- It won't be official until later Saturday night, but unless the unimaginable happens, Utah has won the first Pac-12 championship in school history. Utah, the tournament's top seed, blew away seeds Nos. 2-4 in the afternoon session and its 197.925 should hold up against the seeds 5-8 competing in the evening session.

The Utes tied the seventh-best score in school history with the 197.925 to beat Stanford (197.175), UCLA (196.525) and Oregon State (196.275). A team in the evening session would need to score a full point higher than its season best to steal the title from the Utes. All four teams in the afternoon session are ranked in the top 11 in the country, led by Utah's No. 5 ranking, while the highest-ranked team in the evening session is No. 19 California.

Coach Greg Marsden didn't wait until the evening session to comment on the inevitable. "I know there's another session, but if things go as planned, we're going ring shopping! I can't tell you how happy we are to win a Pac-12 championship. With all of the great wins we've had over the years, this is as thrilling and important as any of them," Marsden said, referring no doubt to Utah's 10 national championships and eight runner-up finishes.

This time, the Utes left nothing to chance, leading from start to finish and growing stronger as the meet went on. While runner-up Stanford kept the heat on, the Cardinal were no match for a Ute team on fire.

The individual honors are still up for grabs with one session to go, but heading into it, Utes are leading the all-around, vault, bars and floor competitions. Tory Wilson's 39.450 was the best all-around score of the afternoon and Georgia Dabritz swept vault (9.95), bars (10.0) and floor (9.95) against the league's best teams.