NORMAN — No Jonathan Horton, no Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons, no problem for the Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team. That’s not entirely true, but the expected dropoff after losing some of the most decorated gymnasts in school history has not happened. And entering this weekend’s national championships in Minneapolis, OU is poised to make a run for another title. "I still felt like we’d be pretty good this season, but I’m surprised we were as good as we were so early in the season,” said head coach Mark Williams. "That’s where it all started.” The Sooners are gunning for their ninth national title and their sixth since 2002 and are ranked second in the nation. One of the bigger reasons for the continued success has been the performances of sophomore Steven Legendre. Legendre won national titles on both the floor exercise and the vault as a freshman — the first time an OU freshman has won one national title, never mind two. He is also a member of the senior national team. While he was noted for his strengths on those two events, he’s made the biggest strides this season in some of his weaker ones and has become a complete package. "He’s expanding on what he’s good at,” Williams said. "He’s a lot better on rings, p-bars (parallel bars) and the high bar this season.” It’s more than a two-team race, but it might well come down to a tie-breaker between OU and Stanford. The Sooners won the first battle, but Stanford defeated OU two weeks ago to win the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference championship and took the No. 1 ranking away from OU. It is the first time since 2004 that OU has not won the conference championship. "There is a lot of motivation that goes with that,” Legendre said. "We just have to have guys step up this weekend, myself included. We had the same goal coming into this season to win the championship. We’ve given ourselves that opportunity.”
NCAA men’s national championships
→When: Thursday-Saturday →Where: Minneapolis, Minn. →Scouting report: To go with sophomore standout Steven Legendre, OU coach Mark Williams said senior captain Chris Brooks has made the biggest improvement from last year. The preliminary rounds are Thursday with OU competing in the night session. If OU finishes in the top three of its session, it qualifies for the team finals Friday. The individual event finals are Saturday. OU won the national championship last year.