Sooners Headed Back to Super Six
|Vault||Brenna Dowell (OU), MyKayla Skinner (Utah), Alex McMurtry (Florida)||9.9375|
|Bars||Maggie Nichols, Elizabeth Price (Stanford)||10.000|
|Beam||Peng-Peng Lee (UCLA)||9.9875|
|Floor||Maggie Nichols (OU), Katelyn Ohashi (UCLA)||9.9625|
|AA||Maggie Nichols (OU)||39.8125|
|OU Team Highs|
ST. LOUIS —It’s back to the Super Six for the Oklahoma Sooners.
With a first-place finish in NCAA Semifinal II, the top-seeded Sooners will make their sixth straight and eighth overall appearance in the team finals. OU posted a 198.050 to take the top spot in the second session of the NCAA Championships on Friday evening inside Chaifetz Arena.
The Sooners will be joined in the Super Six by No. 5 Florida (197.5875) and No. 4 Utah (197.1375). No. 9 California finished in fourth place with a 196.5000, while No. 8 Washington (196.2500) and No. 12 Kentucky (197.0625) rounded out the standings in Semifinal II. The three additional advancing teams from Semifinal I were No. 3 UCLA (197.5625), No. 2 LSU (197.4750) and No. 11 Nebraska (197.0125).
The Sooners posted the best score of both sessions on floor (49.5875) and bars (49.6125), and the highest overall team score. OU was the only program to break the 198-mark, posting its ninth score of 198 or better this season.
“I am excited,” head coach K.J. Kindler said. “Congratulations to Florida and Utah. It was, for us, starting on balance beam was new for us. We have not done that this year. We kind of have a mixture of super aggressive strong routines and then a little bit of nerves coming out. We get to start there again tomorrow so I am glad that we at least had that practice today and can learn from it and be just a hair more aggressive tomorrow. I was very pleased over all. We were pushed by the teams on the floor and it was good. Now we are ready to get some rest.”
Sophomore Maggie Nichols won the all-around title, tying the NCAA championship record with a 39.8125. Nichols also won a share of the bars title with a perfect 10 and a share of floor with a 9.9625. With four individual championships to her name after winning the bars title in 2017, Nichols is tied with Kelly Garrison for most individual titles at Oklahoma.
“I am really proud of Maggie,” Kindler said. “We approached tonight as a ‘we’ meet, and ‘us’ meet, and it is tough because all those individual things are on the line. We have to get our minds straight that we are here for the team. She totally bought into that. She had less pressure on herself because of that. Obviously, the result was wonderful. I am really proud of her, she has had a really unique year probably like no one else and her strength showed through. It was tough and to come out on this side this year is really special.”
Junior Brenna Dowell earned a share of the vault title with a 9.9375 for her first career individual championship.
“She was sticking really well at the beginning of the season and then went through a period of not really knowing where it was and it was right there,” Kindler said. “It is awesome for her. She is a super hard worker. She is so happy and I love seeing her like that. I feel like her personality really comes out in college gymnastics. She really has brightened up and I think that more people can see her personality coming out. I think she is really enjoying herself and that is what is most important.”
Eight Sooners picked up an incredible 16 All-America honors. Gymnasts placing first through fourth are named to the first team, while those in fifth to eighth are on the second team.
Nichols picked up five All-America accolades, including four first-team honors (bars, beam, floor, all-around) and one second-team honor (vault). Dowell earned two accolades, with a first-team honor on vault and second-team honors on floor.
Senior Stefani Catour (second team on bars and beam), junior Nicole Lehrmann (first team bars and beam), and sophomore Bre Showers (vault, all-around)each earned a pair of honors. Senior AJ Jackson (second team on floor), sophomore Jade Degouveia (second team on vault), and freshman Anastasia Webb (first team on floor) all earned All-America accolades on one apparatus.
Oklahoma began the meet on beam, posting a 49.375, just .100 behind Florida who earned a 49.475 on bars in the opening rotation. The Sooners started strong with senior Stefani Catour posting a 9.8875 in the leadoff spot. Sophomore Bre Showers added a 9.800 and senior Nicole Lehrmann followed with a 9.900. Senior Natalie Brown added a 9.8125 in the No. 4 spot, with freshman Anastasia Webb contributing a 9.8250. Nichols capped off the rotation with a near-perfect routine for a 9.950.
After a bye, the Sooners came out with new life, posting an incredible 49.5875 to move into first place with a 98.9625 total score. Showers got the rotation started off strong with a 9.8625. Dowell added a 9.900 in the No. 3 spot with incredibly powerful tumbling. The scores continued to climb as senior AJ Jackson notched a 9.925 in the No. 4 spot and Webb added a 9.9375 in the No. 5 spot. Nichols anchored with yet another strong performance for a 9.9625.
The momentum carried to vault where OU put up a 49.475. With sophomore Jade Degouveia back in the lineup for the first time since Jan. 21, the Sooners threw four vaults with a 10.0 start value. Dowell was the highlight, posting a 9.9375 on her Yurchenko 1.5. Lehrmann led off the rotation with a 9.8625 on a full-twisting Yurchenko, followed by a career-high 9.8875 from Showers. Degouveia showed off her Yurchenko 1.5 for a career-high 9.8875 in the No. 5 spot. Nichols anchored with a 9.900.
“Jade has not vaulted since the second meet of the year so that was a big change for us,” Kindler said. “Anastasia was a little off in warm up and we made the call to switch that and they were supportive of it which is always important, and Jade killed it. We are really excited for her as well, stepping in and being able to contribute again after tearing her planter facia really early in the season.”
The Sooners would head to a bye before their final rotation and used the down time to prepare for a huge final rotation. OU posted a 49.6125 on bars, highlighted by Nichols’ 10.0 in the anchor spot. With the perfect score, Nichols completed her second career gym slam, posting a perfect score on every apparatus this season. The sophomore now has two 10.0s on bars in her career and 15 total perfect scores.
“Today, I just wanted to go out there and feel out the equipment, staying calm and doing my routines that I have been doing in training,” Nichols said. “I wanted to help the team qualify for Super Six, so I just wanted to go out there and have fun, which I did.”
Webb started the final rotation off strong for Oklahoma with a 9.8625 in the leadoff spot. Bre Showers followed with a 9.8500 to set up Catour. In the No.3 spot, Catour was phenomenal, sticking her landing to post a 9.9250. Dowell added a 9.8750 and Lehrmann performed an incredible routine in the No. 5 spot to secure her 14th mark of 9.9 or better this season with a 9.950. Lehrmann remains the only gymnast in the nation to post at least a 9.9 on bars in every meet this season.
“I am really proud of this team,” Dowell said. “I know that we have really worked hard in the gym. It is about trusting our team and the process and all the stuff that we have done this year. We knew that we could deliver on all four events and we are hoping to come in and do that tomorrow.”
Oklahoma will vie for its third straight and fourth overall NCAA title when it competes in Saturday's Super Six team finals. The meet will begin at 6 p.m. CT and air live on ESPNU, with individual streams of each event available on WatchESPN.com.