About an hour after the Oklahoma men's team polished off Stanford in Columbus, Ohio, for its 10th NCAA team title, the Sooner women were embroiled in Texas shootout in Fort Worth. And while the victory for the men was not unexpected — they haven't lost a meet in two years — any of the top four women's teams that competed in the final rotation had a legitimate chance to win.
Heading to floor, the event that crushed their hopes last year, the Sooners extended their lead this time. Natalie Brown opened with a 9.90, and by the time AJ Jackson (pictured here) posted a 9.95 as the fifth gymnast up, the victory was sealed. Although floor anchor Haley Scaman did not know it as she assumed her opening pose. But right before her music started, Jackson's score was entered into the computer and Oklahoma shot to the No. 1 position on the scoreboard. The cheers of the large contingent of OU fans drowned out Scaman's music, and she admitted to being distracted. But during a part of her routine where she faced her team, she said she saw Keeley Kmieciak sobbing, and she knew they had won.
Meanwhile, LSU, the only team to defeat Oklahoma this year, was knocking out vaults to the tune of 49.4625. The Tigers were anchored by Ashley Gnat's double-twisting Yurchenko (9.925), which earned a 10.0 from one judge. But it wasn't enough to overtake Oklahoma, which defeated LSU, 197.675-197.450. Alabama, which led after two events, finished third (197.4375), and three-time defending champion Florida was fourth (197.350), suffering a fall on vault. UCLA was fifth (196.825) and Georgia, which had some poor landings on floor, was sixth (196.8125).
There were few falls in this Super Six final, and none on beam, which is rare at such an intense competition. And Oklahoma coach K.J. Kindler felt it.
"They had to fight for it," she said of her team. "They learned a lot from last year, and they applied it today."
Said junior Chayse Capps, who placed second all-around in prelims: "I do think we did learn to take one routine at a time."
Kindler said their first-meet loss to LSU on the road was pivotal to their ultimate success, explaining that their undefeated status last year began to affect their performance.
"I always feel you grow from failure," she said. "To me, that was a turning point to our season."
Kindler also said that this victory was much different from their first, when Oklahoma tied Florida in 2014. She said that her team wasn't supposed to win that year, so there was less pressure.
"Tonight we worked much harder to win," she said.
The Sooner men had a a stellar performance in Columbus, opening with the top floor score of the meet, anchored by Colin Van Wicklen. The Sooners also posted the top totals on rings, vault and parallel bars, and were second on pommels and high bar. That will get it done, and the Sooners increased their winning margin from last year, defeating Stanford again, 443.400-434.050. Oklahoma freshman Yul Moldauer captured the all-around title, and event champions were Van Wicklen (floor), Brandon Ngai (Illinois, pommel horse), Dennis Zaremski (Stanford, rings), Anthony McCallum (Michigan, vault), Akash Modi (Stanford, parallel bars) and Modi tied Alex Johnson of Ohio State for the high bar title.
Host team Ohio State finished third (433.050), just ahead of Illinois (432.750). Penn State (425.40) and Minnesota (424.40) completed the six-team field.
"It feels great," said OU men's coach Mark Williams. "The guys hit 100 percent, and you can't ask any more than that. …I'm so excited for them, because it's so hard to repeat. Back-to-back championships is pretty special."
So is making history. Oklahoma is the first university to win both the men's and women's NCAA team titles the same year. Which leads to another thought: Can they do it again next year?
Full results: ncaa.com.