Sooners Claim Ninth Straight Regional Title
|Vault||Meaghan Sievers (ISU)||9.925|
|Bars||Nicole Lehrmann (OU)||9.950|
|Beam||Maggie Nichols (OU)||10.0|
|Floor||Maggie Nichols (OU)||9.975|
|AA||Maggie Nichols (OU)||39.775|
|OU Team Highs|
|Vault||AJ Jackson, Maggie Nichols||9.900|
MINNEAPOLIS —The Road to the Super Six continues.
The No. 1 Oklahoma women's gymnastics team continued its recent regional success, claiming its ninth straight regional crown on Saturday. The Sooners finished in first place at the NCAA Minneapolis Regional with a score of 198.000 inside Maturi Pavillion.
With the first-place finish, the Sooners advance to the NCAA Championships for the 15th consecutive season and 18th time overall. The meet marked the eighth time the Sooners have scored at least a 198 this season.
No. 12 Kentucky finished in second place with a 197.050 and will advance to nationals with the Sooners. No. 13 Denver took third with a 196.275, while No. 24 Minnesota finished fourth with a 196.100. Iowa State claimed fifth place (195.925) and Iowa placed sixth (195.050).
The Sooners posted the highest team total on each event and snagged at least a share of four individual titles. On bars, junior Nicole Lehrmann claimed the top spot with a 9.950. Nichols claimed the beam title with a perfect 10, the floor title with a 9.975, and the all-around title with a 39.775. Iowa State’s Meaghan Sievers claimed the vault title with a 9.925.
Additionally, Nichols was named the South Central Region Gymnast of the Year for the second consecutive season.
“Honestly, this meet is a tough meet because there’s a lot of great competition,” head coach K.J. Kindler said. “It decides whether you move forward or not, and you never take that for granted. I know our team doesn’t. Coming into this meet, you have to be very aggressive. The worst thing you can do is hold back. I was very pleased from top to bottom. Ending on beam with five stuck dismounts, very pleased with that. Starting on floor the way we did, on fire. That was huge. The bookends were great.”
The Sooners began on floor for the second straight competition, coming out strong with their second-best score of the season. OU posted a huge 49.600, counting four scores of 9.9 or higher.
Nichols anchored with a huge 9.975, showing off her full-in on her opening pass for a near perfect routine. In the No. 5 spot, freshman Anastasia Webb tied her career high with a 9.950 on one of her best routines of the season. In the middle of the order, powerful tumbling was showcased as senior AJ Jackson notched a 9.925 in the No. 4 spot, while junior Brenna Dowell added a 9.900 in the No. 3 spot. Sophomore Bre Showers led off with a gorgeous routine for a 9.850.
“We did some new things today,” Kindler said. “AJ hasn’t done her full-in in a few weeks and she did it amazing and all our E-passes were really spot on. Brenna’s double-front was just front and center, Anastasia’s front-double full, Maggie doing her full-in again. All our E-passes were just spot on. The starter, Bre Showers, I think that was huge for us. Bre’s been starting for us all season but this was her best routine without a doubt. It’s hard to start on floor and be that base score where you’re the first routine they see. She did an amazing job starting off this meet.”
The Sooners carried the solid start to vault, putting up a 49.400 to sit at a total of 99.000 before their bye. Nichols and Jackson paced the Sooners with a pair of 9.9s on their Yurchenko 1.5s. Dowell and Webb added a pair of 9.875s as OU put up four vaults with 10.0 start values. Lehrmann posted a 9.850 in the No. 2 spot, while junior Alex Marks contributed a 9.8 in the leadoff position.
After a bye in the third rotation the Sooners moved on to bars, posting a 49.475. Lehrmann was incredible in the No. 5 spot to post a meet-high 9.950. Senior Stefani Catour and Nichols were both solid for the Sooners, putting up identical 9.9s. Showers added a 9.875 in the No. 2 spot, while Dowell contributed a 9.850. In the leadoff spot, Webb’s routine went for a 9.825.
Ending on beam, the Sooners pulled off the exact score of 49.525 needed to put up their eighth score of 198 or higher this season. Nichols anchored with a perfect 10.0 in front of her home crowd to push the Sooners to the 198 mark. The sophomore now has seven career perfect scores on beam and 14 total career perfect scores.
“It was so special for me, especially in front of the home crowd, Nichols said. “It was my hard work paying off and I’m so happy I could do it for my team.”
Webb posted a 9.9 in the No. 5 spot, finishing second in the all-around with a 39.550. Senior Natalie Brown was gorgeous as usual in the No. 4 spot, scoring a 9.9 of her own. Lehrmann added a 9.875 in the No. 3 spot, and Showers posted a 9.850 in the No. 2 spot.
“Maggie had a lot of adrenaline today for obvious reasons,” Kindler said. “She’s here in front of her own crowd and had, I think, a lot of internal pressure to have a great meet. She nailed that dismount. You could see she was flying on every other event. She was able to control that dismount and that made the difference.”
Oklahoma and Kentucky advance to the 2018 NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo., on April 20 and 21. The Sooners are the No. 1 overall seed and will contend for the program's eighth Super Six appearance when they compete in Semifinal II on April 20.
“We’re going to go back and keep working,” Kindler said. “We’re going to keep trying to get better. We’re excited to be moving on as I’m sure every team is. Congratulations to Kentucky. I remember what it feels like when you make it that very first time. You never forget or take it for granted. It’s very exciting and we’re looking forward to getting better and having a great meet at nationals.”