No. 1 Oklahoma coasts into NCAA gymnastics finals

Friday, April 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Top-ranked Oklahoma had little difficulty getting through early qualifying at the NCAA men's gymnastics championships Thursday.

The Sooners, who figure to have the best shot at beating defending champion Penn State, totaled 218.300 points during the first session of the six-event qualifying at Ohio State's St. John Arena.

That was the highest score in the sport this year and was almost four points better than Oklahoma's closest pursuer, California, with 214.550.

Oklahoma had the highest combined six-person team score in four of the six events.

Penn State was third among the six teams during the first session, grabbing the third and final qualifying spot from the first session.

The scoring starts over each day, so Oklahoma has no advantage on Friday.

Illinois, ranked fourth in the nation after picking up a school-record 19 victories, finished fourth and will not be competing for the team title Friday night.

The six teams in the second session included second-ranked Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan and No. 6 Michigan State.

Ohio State is led by senior Jamie Natalie, who on Wednesday won the Nissen-Emery Award _ the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy of men's gymnastics.

The top three teams from each session advance to the finals along with the top three all-around competitors and the top three individuals not on one of the qualifying teams.

The individual event finals are Saturday.