On a night when every mistake is magnified and nerves are difficult to control, the Super Six at the 2017 NCAA Championships became a test of survival. And top-ranked Oklahoma came out sticking in St. Louis Saturday to complete an undefeated season and win back-to-back NCAA titles. The Sooners ran away with the championship with a record score of 198.3875.
LSU, meanwhile, was not the team that dominated the second semi-final the previous night. Beginning on floor, the Tigers could not control several of their landings, and the same was true on vault. So the close battle with OU never developed, with Florida in second place for much of the night. With the title out of reach in the final rotation, however, LSU finally relaxed and posted the top beam score ever in a Super Six to slip past the Gators, 197.7375-197.700. LSU, which has never won the Super Six, also placed second last year.
UCLA placed fourth (197.2625), giving away valuable tenths on its first event, vault. Fifth-place Utah also struggled with landings on floor in the first rotation and finished fifth with 196.5875. Alabama took itself out of the running in the first two rotations with a fall and other mistakes on uneven bars and two falls on beam. The Crimson Tide finished sixth with 196.000.
The night really belonged to the Sooners, who had problems in the first semi-final yesterday, when senior Chayse Capps bounced out of bounds on floor and freshman Maggie Nichols (pictured) fell off beam on a front salto. Both gymnasts were excellent tonight. In the Super Six, Nichols took out the front salto on beam, which led to the first of three 10.0s on the night. UCLA's Peng-Peng Lee also scored a 10.0 on beam, and Florida's Alex McMurtry tallied a 10.0 on uneven bars.
"It was unreal," said Capps. "We're all just so elated."
Said Oklahoma head coach K.J. Kindler during the competition, "It's a magical night, what can I say? They're just on."
The Sooners finished on vault, where the last two gymnasts, AJ Jackson and Nichols, both stuck their Yurchenko-1-1/2 twists to secure OU's third NCAA title with an exclamation point.
That's the nature of the sport. Sometimes you can want it too much, which seemed to be LSU's problem early in the competition. The Tigers simply won on the wrong night.
Read complete coverage of the NCAA Championships in the May issue of International Gymnast.To subscribe or order back issues, click here.