Tahlequah Daily Press

April 21, 2013

Both OU gymnastics teams settle for 2nd at nationals

Associated Press

— STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Olympian Sam Mikulak won the all-around competition and helped Michigan pull away from Oklahoma in the final rotation to take the NCAA men's gymnastics title Saturday night.

Michigan finished with 443.200 points, and Oklahoma had 440.100 after leading by five-tenths after five events. The Wolverines' final event was floor exercise and they scored 75.250, while the Sooners earned 72.750 on the high bar.

The championship was Michigan's fifth, and the third for head coach Kurt Golder.

"You work so hard every year and it doesn't always come to fruition," Golder said. "When it does, it's very special."

Sooners coach Mark Williams was pleased with the second-place finish.

"We were trying to get as good as we could during the year and see how far we could go," Williams said. "There's no way I could have projected this team would have finished second."

Stanford was third at 436.150, followed by host Penn State at 436.100, Iowa at 426.450 and Illinois at 422.550.

Mikulak finished at 91.150 for his second all-around title in three years. He was second last season. Teammate Adrian de los Angeles was second at 88.350.

"We wanted that 1-2 finish and that's what we got," Mikulak said.

The NCAA title in his senior season capped off quite a year for Mikulak, a member of the U.S. senior national team who competed in the London Olympics.

"There's a lot more pride with this team of brothers I've been working so hard every day with in the gym," Mikulak said. "As much as the Olympics was an amazing experience, this is something that I hadn't accomplished and this is the final accolade I was striving to get for my college career."

Golder chose to start on the pommel horse, typically one of the competition's most difficult events.

"If you do have trouble, you have five events to dig yourself out of a hole you just dug," Golder said. "But we didn't have trouble. That's what we did at Big Tens and we won and that's what we did in prelims. So there wasn't much of a need to change."

Individual champions will be determined in the six events Sunday.

OU women just shy of a national title

LOS ANGELES — Top-ranked Florida opened the NCAA women's gymnastics finals about as poorly as possible, with two athletes falling off the beam to put the Gators in last place after the first rotation.

Rather than let the dismal start dash their championship hopes, the Gators responded with a big comeback. A strong performance on the floor began the rally, and Florida pulled ahead during the final rotation to win its first title Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.

"It was not an ideal opening to the competition, but what I loved was this team rallied and didn't let that affect them," Gators coach Rhona Faehn said as she wiped tears from her eyes. "I really think it's representative of their desire and passion and their never give up attitude. After beam they could've laid down and said we're done, and they did not let that happen"

The Gators got the comeback going by scoring a 49.725 on the floor — highlighted by four scored at least 9.95 — and following up with a 49.500 on vault, the highest scores in those events. They scored a 49.475 in the bars in the final rotation to finish with 197.575.

"We wanted to leave everything out on the floor and we did today," said Florida freshman Bridget Sloan, a 2008 U.S. Olympian. "We really just came together as a team. We were like, 'We can do this. We can come back from this.' We fought. This competition just goes to show that even with mistakes, if you fight until the end you will have a great outcome."

Oklahoma finished second at 197.375, and two-time defending champion Alabama was third at 197.350. Host UCLA was fourth at 197.100, followed by LSU at 197.050 and Georgia at 196.675.

The Crimson Tide entered the final rotation in first place, 0.025 points ahead of Florida, but Sarah DeMeo fell on the beam to give the Gators an opportunity to take the lead.

Florida, second last year, had the top performer in all four events. Sloan had the top performance on both the vault and balance beam with 9.95s, junior Alaina Johnson scored a 9.95 on the bars, and sophomore Kytra Hunter had a 9.975 on floor — the highest score of the day.

Hunter was one of the athletes who fell off the beam at the start, along with Ashanee Dickerson.

"When I fell, I was like, 'Holy cow!' but I knew I could get myself back together," Hunter said. "What really means the most is the way you finish. ... I knew I had to get my act together and I did for the rest of the competition."

Winning the title at UCLA was particularly sweet for Faehn. The 41-year-old coach was an All-America gymnast at UCLA and began her coaching career as a student assistant for the Bruins.

"It's pretty incredible," Faehn said. "Looking up at the stands and seeing my former UCLA teammates and my head coach going crazy and doing the Gator chomp and saying I love you, that was huge. It kind of made it full circle. It was really nice."