For the Oklahoma gymnastics team, redemption is sweet.
After finishing second last season by just less than three hundredths of a point, denying the Sooners a third title in a row, top-ranked Oklahoma opened with a strong first rotation on the bars and never trailed, winning the team portion of the 2019 Women’s National Collegiate Gymnastics Championships on Saturday at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
“It definitely hurt coming up a little bit short last year,” said Oklahoma’s Maggie Nichols, who won the all-around national title Friday. “I know for our whole team that it motivated us to go into the gym, even during the summer and through preseason.
“Our #PZTSF (point zero two seven five), was how much we lost by. We had that reminder on our tank tops, had it on a bracelet and we said it all the time. We were motivated in the gym, not just to set ourselves apart, but to be so much better with little details. Stuck landings, hit handstands, pointed toes, every little detail, so we could win by a big margin this year.”
And that they did.
Oklahoma’s total of 198.3375 is second all time at the NCAA Championships, just behind the 198.3875 the Sooners produced to win the 2017 title.
No. 3 LSU finished in second place with a 197.8250, No. 2 UCLA turned in a 197.5375 for third and No. 5 Denver finished fourth at 197.0000.
It was Oklahoma’s fourth national team title (2014, 2016, 2017 and 2019), and since 2010, the Sooners have finished third or better nine out of 10 times. This is OU’s 19 time reaching the team championships and their 16th straight.
“I was in awe,” said Oklahoma senior Brenna Dowell, who got a 10 from four of the six judges on her vault in the last rotation that stamped the victory. “That was the first vault that I’ve really stuck all season. And to do it the very last night on the night of Final Four and to really clinch that victory was pure joy and so exciting.”
Nichols followed up her all-around title from Friday with the top all-around score Saturday as well with a 39.7625, sharing the honor with LSU’s Sarah Finnegan.
The Sooners won three of the four events, with LSU winning on the bars.
LSU has yet to win a national team title in 14 tries, but the Tigers have finished second in three of the past four seasons.
“I’m very proud of this team,” said LSU coach D-D Breaux, in her 42nd season at the helm of the Tigers. “All you can do is all you can do, and we expected a max effort, and if that was good enough to win it, we would have won it. But we got beat by an excellent, disciplined, team that stuck more landings than we did.”
From the outside, Oklahoma made this season look like a cake walk after being ranked No. 1 all year and not losing a single meet. But coach K.J. Kindler said that was far from the truth with more injuries that she can remember and the loss of Dave Richardson, husband of OU trainer Jenn Richardson, who was very close to the entire team.
Dave Richardson succumbed to colon cancer two months ago after being diagnosed in 2016.
“It has been quite a journey this year, and there’s not one person that was not working their butts off, contributing in every single way, stepping in when we needed them to step in,” said Kindler. “We were faced with adversity from beginning to end, and I know it looked easy from the outside, but we were battling the entire time.
“Every week was a gigantic challenge. We’re just very good at hiding it. This year has just been a miracle.”
“After losing Dave, we were so close to him, we all were just doing it for him,” said Nichols, who referred to Richardson as a team dad. “Every routine we did tonight, we did it for him. He was there with us, and he helped us win this national championship.”