Sooners Begin NCAA Title Quest

Friday, April 14th 2017, 4:50 pm
By: News On 6


When the No. 1 Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team takes the competition floor this weekend at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo., it will begin its quest for the third national title in program history. The top-seeded Sooners will compete in Semifinal I at noon CT on Friday against No. 4 Utah, No. 5 UCLA, No. 8 Oregon State, No. 9 Denver and No. 13 Washington, with the top three teams advancing to the NCAA Super Six on Saturday night. Auburn all-around gymnast Katie Becker will rotate with OU through all events, while Arkansas’ Braie Speed will also compete during the vault rotation. Competing on the opposite side of the bracket for a shot at the title will be No. 2 LSU, No. 3 Florida, No. 6 Alabama, No. 7 Michigan, No. 10 Georgia and No. 14 Nebraska.

Each session of the 2017 NCAA Championships will air live, with the Semifinal I session airing on ESPN2. Both days of coverage will again be surrounded with a customized second-screen experience available on WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Viewers will be able to stream each individual apparatus or a quad-box view called "All-Around," which presents a streaming view of each event live at the same time on one screen. U.S. Olympic Medalists Bart Conner and Kathy Johnson Clarke will call the action, while Laura Rutledge will provide reports from the floor.

Coming off a spectacular season in which Oklahoma claimed its second NCAA crown, the 2017 Sooners are working to reach the pinnacle of their sport for the second straight season and third time overall. OU tied with Florida to win its first national championship in 2014, becoming just the sixth school to ever earn a title, before snagging its first outright win in 2016.

Strength in the postseason has become a hallmark of Oklahoma’s teams under head coach K.J. Kindler. Since 2010, OU owns seven seasons in which it has captured a conference and regional championship in the same season, accomplishing the feat in 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2010. The Sooners have advanced to the NCAA Championships 17 times in program history and every season dating back to 2004. OU has never missed NCAA competition under Kindler’s leadership.

For the third consecutive season, Oklahoma is the nation’s No. 1 overall seed in NCAA competition, earning the ranking with a program-record 198.010 regional qualifying score (RQS). OU began its 2017 campaign as the top team in the preseason rankings, and after dropping to the second spot after the first weekend of competition, the Sooners quickly regained first place the following week and have remained there every week since. This is the sixth straight season the Sooners have finished within the top two of the regular season national rankings based on regional qualifying score.

OU secured its spot at nationals via a first-place showing at the NCAA Seattle Regional, posting the highest score at regionals this season with a 198.075. Three Sooners combined for five individual event titles, all with scores of 9.95. AJ Jackson and Maggie Nichols shared the vault honor, while Chayse Capps and Nichols tied on beam. Nichols also won the floor crown and claimed the top spot in the all-around with a 39.750.

OU has faced eight teams in the 2017 NCAA Championships field, including Denver and Georgia twice. OU holds a perfect 10-0 mark against those teams, defeating Alabama, UCLA, Denver, Nebraska, LSU, Georgia, Michigan and Washington throughout the course of the season.

With a win at No. 17 California on March 12, the Sooners finished the regular season with a perfect 15-0 overall record, their fifth undefeated regular season under K.J. Kindler (2008, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2017). OU now holds a 23-0 record following the Big 12 Championship and NCAA Seattle Regional. Dating back to the 2016 season, the Sooners have picked up 61 straight wins, including 48 consecutive victories on the road.

In addition to determining the squads competing in the Super Six, Friday’s semifinals will serve to crown individual national champions. Scores will be combined from both sessions to determine the winners. In its history, OU has had two gymnasts combine for five individual NCAA titles, with Kelly Garrison (1987 and 1988) winning all-around honors twice and claiming titles on bars and beam, and Taylor Spears placing first on beam in 2014.

The Sooners enter the NCAA Championships with two of the nation’s top all-around competitors in freshman Maggie Nichols and senior Chayse Capps, who rank first and third, respectively. Semifinal I features seven of the top-10 all-arounders, with MyKayla Skinner (2nd, Utah), Madison Kocian (T-5th, UCLA), Baely Rowe (T-5th, Utah), Kaytianna McMillan (9th, Oregon State) and Maddie Karr (10th, Denver) all competing in the session.

OU is one of only five teams in the nation to advance to the NCAA Championships every season since 2004, joining Alabama, Florida, LSU and Utah.

The Sooners have the most top-10 scores of any team in 2017. Five of OU’s scores rank in the top 10 nationally, including the top two marks. The Sooners have scored at least 198 five times this season, with those marks checking in first (198.350, GymQuarters Mardi Gras Invitational), second (198.175, at TWU), sixth (198.075, Perfect 10 Challenge and NCAA Seattle Regional) and eighth (198.025, vs. UCLA).

OU’s five scores of at least 198 are the most in a single season in program history (had four in 2014). The rest of the nation combined has three such performances, with LSU scoring at least 198 twice and UCLA doing so once.


• Oklahoma returns eight previous NCAA All-Americans who own 21 total accolades: Natalie Brown (BB), Chayse Capps (VT, UB, BB, FX, AA), Brenna Dowell (UB, FX), Nicole Lehrmann (UB, BB), Kara Lovan (FX), AJ Jackson (VT, UB, FX), Charity Jones (VT, BB) and McKenzie Wofford (UB).

• Five current Sooners have scored perfect 10.0s in their careers, including Brenna Dowell (UB, 2015), Chayse Capps (BB, 2016 and 2017), Nicole Lehrmann (UB, 2017), Maggie Nichols (VT [twice], UB, BB [twice] and FX, 2017) and McKenzie Wofford (UB, 2017). The Sooners have tallied nine perfect scores this season.

• Seventeen of OU’s scores this season are currently in the top 10 in program history, including four team totals, two vault scores, four scores on bars, three on beam and four floor scores.


With a top-three finish in Semifinal I, the Sooners would advance to compete in the Super Six on Saturday night. The meet is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT and will air live on ESPNU.