|VT||H. Justus (OU)||14.666|
CHICAGO – The Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team is one step closer to its fourth straight national championship after placing first in session two of the NCAA preliminaries Friday night. OU recorded a 410.991, the highest of any team in either session, to advance to Saturday’s 6 p.m. CT finals.
Yul Moldauer (still rings) and Hunter Justus (vault) each picked up an event title in the victory.
The win is OU's 92nd straight, tying UNC women's soccer (1990-94) for the fourth-longest winning streak in NCAA history.
Illinois and Penn State qualified for Saturday's final, finishing second and third in the preliminary. Ohio State, Iowa and California claimed fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, missing the cut for tomorrow's competition.
"We left some points out on the floor but we picked it up in the last two events," head coach Mark Williams said. "We will see some changes in our lineup tomorrow. Hopefully we will be all set to go with our best linuep tomorrow and compete for a national championship."
The Sooners earned the right to pick the event their event order. They elected to compete in Olympic order and started the evening on floor. Freshman Gage Dyer led OU with the team’s only score above 14.00, hitting his routine and notching a 14.266 from the anchor position. Justus and Levi Anderson put together a pair of solid routines with marks of 13.700 and 13.600, respectively, and Alexei Vernyi recorded a 13.033 in his postseason debut. Tanner Justus suffered a fall, scoring a 12.366. With a team score of 66.965, Oklahoma trailed Penn State, which started on vault, and Illinois, which began on parallel bars.
"At NCAA Championships, people struggle to come out of gates either too strong or holding back," Anderson said. "That's exactly what happpened today. I have 100 percent faith in all guys ability to hit when we need it."
On pommel horse, OU’s lineup hit all five of its routines in a phenomenal rotation, totaling a 68.399, the highest score of any team in either session. Genki Suzuki was one of four gymnasts in either session to score a 14.000 or higher, anchoring with a 14.000. Brian Schibler was not far behind, just missing the 14-point mark with a 13.933. Moldauer earned a 13.900 in his first routine of the night, followed by Grant Kell (13.366) and Levi Anderson (13.200). The Sooners still trailed Penn State and Illinois by nearly 2.600.
"I thought the pommel horse lineup was a great lift for us," Williams said "I am happy with those guys putting it together."
The No. 1 still rings squad in the country closed the gap for the Sooners, putting up a strong 68.498 and pulling within less than a half a point of first place. Moldauer won the event title with a massive 14.700, 0.567 points in front of the next-best OU score (Reese Rickett anchored with a 14.133). Collyn Kellogg notched a solid 13.666 in his NCAA Championship debut, followed by Jake Maloley’s 13.366. Peter Daggett returned to OU’s lineup after multiple surgeries and tallied a 12.633.
The Sooners grabbed the lead after moving to vault, putting up a 70.398 team score. Hunter Justus won the event title with a stuck landing and a 14.666. Tanner Justus finished second for OU, earning a 14.200. In his NCAA Championship debut, Eric Holley notched the second-highest score of his career with a 14.166. Genki Suzuki (14.033) and Gage Dyer (13.333) wrapped up the fourth rotation for Oklahoma.
In the fifth rotation, OU stretched its lead to over five points, totaling a 69.166 on parallel bars. Hunter Justus scored above a 14.000 for the second-time in the Sooners’ session with a team-leading 14.266. Moldauer finished his third and final event of day with a 14.100. Daggett hit his first parallel bars routine of the season, tallying a 13.700. Suzuki (13.800) and Dyer (13.300) rounded out the lineup for the Sooners.
Oklahoma locked up its spot in Saturday’s final with a 67.565 on high bar. Suzuki, who was ranked No. 1 on the event at the end of the regular season, led the Sooners with a 14.133. Anderson notched a 13.866 and was followed by Gage Dyer’s 13.600, the second-highest score of his career. Grant Kell (13.200) and Isamu Ito (12.766) also competed in the final rotation.
"You don't want to be perfect today," Anderson said of the team's performance. "It's good to have problems that you can look to fix tomorrow. Today was about making sure we are moving and getting used to the equipment and making sure we are 100 percent. Tomorrow, it's about coming out and banging out routines, left and right. That's what we are going to do. We can carry this momentum into tomorrow."
The Sooners will take on Illinois, Penn State, Stanford, Nebraska and Minnesota in Saturday’s team finals. Anderson and Moldauer will compete in the all-around for OU as the team will look for its fourth consecutive national title and 12th overall.