Tahlequah Daily Press

College Sports

April 18, 2014

Sooners gymnasts going after national championship

After fighting all season long to stay near the top of the women’s gymnastics rankings, the time has come for Oklahoma to show it belongs there. 

The NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships kick-off at 1 p.m. today and the second ranked Sooners are looking to break through and earn the program’s first national title. 

“It would be so special,” junior Erica Brewer said. “We’ve worked so hard. I feel like this year is a little different. We want it so bad. It’s what’s pushing us to do our very best and to be our very best.”

The tournament is being held at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, which is in the backyard of No. 4 Alabama.

“We love competing there,” OU coach K.J. Kindler said. “I hope that fans will come out for that first session as well. This is an extremely deep group. There are amazing gymnasts on every team and you’re going to see some of the best that you’ve seen in many years. We’re definitely looking forward to competing in Alabama.”

The Sooners will compete in the first semifinal group of the day. It includes No. 3 LSU, No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Michigan, No. 10 Stanford and No. 11 Illinois. The second semifinal features No. 1 Florida, the Tide, Utah, UCLA, Nebraska and Penn State. 

The top three from each semifinal advance to Saturday’s Super Six Championship. The Sooners are looking for their fourth appearance since 2010. 

“It’s going to take us to do just like we do in practice,” McKenzie Wofford said. “Have confidence in ourselves to know that we can do it. We have great talent  on the team so it’s definitely possible. They tell us that it’s like the time of your life. So just to have fun with it and not be too uptight about everything. The more loose you are the better you’re going to be.”

Of the 12 teams competing for the title, the Sooners have already faced six of them. They include Georgia, Florida, LSU, Alabama, Illinois, Michigan. OU has a win against all of them except the top-ranked Gators. 

“We’ve had a very difficult schedule this year,” Kindler said. “We’ve taken on some very tough competition and we’ve put ourselves in positions where we were on podium and where we were in quad meets, and really tried to create the kind of atmosphere that I know that they will have at the National Championship, and been very healthy this evening, which I’m really excited to say.”

But Brewer said the squad is more concerned about their own product instead of the competition.

“I think it will help us a lot having faced them,” Brewer said. “Yeah, we’ve seen them. But we want to focus on ourselves more than anyone else. For us to do great and be great, we need to support each and not focus on the outside things.”

The Sooners seem to be on a roll as it heads into the championships. It has posted three of the team’s top five scores this season over the course of the last four meets.

After coming close the last few seasons, Oklahoma hopes this is their year to end the season as the best in the nation.

‘We just to have fun and keep doing what we’ve been doing in the gym,” Brewer said. “We’ve been practicing awesome. So our goal is to take what we’re practicing out on the floor and the results will come.”

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