BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A national championship tie is still a national championship in gymnastics, and the Oklahoma Sooners were crowned as co-champs Saturday at the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships.
Oklahoma and defending national title-holder Florida ended in a dead heat at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex Arena, each scoring 198.175 to split the championship.
It marked OU’s first national title in the sport. Oklahoma joined Florida, Alabama, Utah, UCLA and Georgia as the only schools to win national titles in women’s gymnastics.
“Our team was just in a magical place from the second we got here tonight,” Oklahoma coach K.J. Kindler said. “We worked through practice, we worked through (Friday’s semifinal), but today we didn't work at all. It was like gymnasts were dropping out of the sky, all butterflies and wonderful things.
“There was very little error from our team. That's the best we can do it.”
The Sooners and Gators had to come from behind to share the title. Alabama took a lead into the final rotation, and had to count a fall on balance beam on its final routine of the night to drop out of first place.
The gymnasts had no qualms about sharing the championship.
“I don't think there should have been a tiebreaker,” OU's Haley Scaman said. “We all deserve it. It was an awesome experience, not just getting our first title but also sharing it with another team.”
Oklahoma had just finished a sizzling turn on the vault with a team score of 49.55, with Chayse Capps and Scaman closing out the rotation with 9.95 outings, with the Gators still closing out their floor exercise rotation. Florida was even hotter, scoring 49.675 to catch up with OU by posting scores of 9.95 on its final four routines.
The Sooners set the tone on their first rotation with a solid score of 49.5 on the uneven parallel bars, and maintained high scores throughout the meet. Erica Brewer started out with a 9.9 on bars, and Keeley Kmeiciak and Taylor Spears closed it out with scores of 9.95 and 9.925, respectively.
Oklahoma thrived on the balance beam, often a make-or-break event in championship competition, with a team tally of 49.525. Spears and Rebecca Clark brought the high scores with twin 9.925 routines, and OU counted no score lower than 9.875 in a competition where every 9.9 or better goes a long way toward keeping a team in contention.
At the meet’s midpoint, Oklahoma was in third in a tight race at 99.025, behind Alabama's 99.15 and Florida's 99.05.
The Sooners moved into second place after their third rotation, rocking the floor exercise. Lara Albright and Scaman both scored 9.95 to lead a 49.6 team turn, with no gymnast scoring lower than 9.9.
To win it all, OU needed a strong finish on the vault and for Alabama to falter enough on the balance beam to create an opening. It got both, along with a late surge by Florida to add to the drama.