Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gymnastics: Both Programs Finish in Top Two

After everything had been said and done and the dust had settled at the men's and women's NCAA Gymnastics Championships, one university again found itself among the nation's best.

On two different sides of the country, the two Oklahoma gymnastics teams each stood on the podium as national runners-up just hours apart on April 20, the highest combined finish of any school's gymnastics squads in the country.

By finishing second at both NCAA Championships, the Sooners became just the third university in NCAA gymnastics history to have both programs finish in the top two in the same season, joining UCLA in 1984 and Michigan in 1999 when both the Wolverines and the Bruins had their men finish first and women finish second.

"We have a tradition now on both sides where the men's and the women's programs have done very well," said OU men's head coach Mark Williams. "In many respects I think this is probably the place to be if you want to be successful in a college program."

In an exciting men's final that went back-and-forth between the Sooners and No. 1 Michigan, OU posted a 440.100 to finish just behind UM's 443.200. On the women's side, OU finished with a score of 197.375, the highest score by a Sooner team at the NCAA Championships in program history, finishing just behind No. 1 Florida's score of 197.575.

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The finishes were no fluke for either of the Sooner programs. The OU men have won five national titles since 2000 and eight overall, including wins in 1977, 1978, 1991, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2008 while finishing in the top three nationally in each of the last 13 seasons.

The Sooner women have quickly joined in on their counterparts' success since head coach K.J. Kindler took over in 2007, finishing in the top three in three of the past four seasons, including a second place finish in 2010 and a third-place standing in 2011. The Sooner women are one of just four teams to have qualified for the NCAA Championships each of the last 10 seasons.

"We recruit hard and we are able to attract some great talent here at Oklahoma," Kindler said. "That's a great credit to former teams and what they have done; they have made Oklahoma a destination and people grow up wanting to be an Oklahoma Sooner."

The success of both programs has translated into conference championships seemingly almost every year. In Kindler's seven seasons the Sooners have won five Big 12 titles and finished in second place the other two seasons. Under Williams, OU has won 11 championships in 14 seasons while never finishing lower than second.

This season both programs did it again, with the men taking the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title while the women claimed the Big 12 championship. The dual wins marked the fourth time in the past six seasons that both teams have won their conference titles in the same year, a feat no other team in the country has done more than once.

But it takes a lot of hard work, persistence and passion to stay at the top year after year.

"I think both programs are enough perfectionists that we're not going to allow to let things slide by and that's the key difference," Williams said. "Even after we've had a good season, once we get back in the fall and start working again, it's not okay to just be mediocre. We've been successful at the end because we're not willing to sacrifice anything to reach whatever that team's potential is."

The Sooner success will just keep building. The OU men's team will return 26 of 30 routines competed at the NCAA Championship while the OU women's squad brings back 21 of the 24 routines from its NCAA competition.

"I think ultimately both teams are in an amazing spot right now," Kindler continued. "We're always pushing for a national championship. That is the ultimate goal and both teams push for that every year. If I'm an athlete and I'm looking at where do I want to go to school, who is up and coming, where does tradition reign supreme, then I would pick Oklahoma."

/// SoonerSports PR
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