April 09, 2015

The Oklahoma men's gymnastics team is tired of finishing second.

The Sooners, 16-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation, have been runners up the past four years. The freshmen who competed when Oklahoma hosted the national meet in 2012 are now seniors with one last chance in front of the home crowd at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman.

The Sooners have set a new NCAA record for team score twice this season. Coach Mark Williams feels good about team's chances of winning the school's ninth title.

''I think the guys have had sort of a mission from the end of last year,'' he said. ''I think this year was just a little different. Every meet seemed to matter. At this point, I feel like we still have to earn championships, but we're really well prepared, and it's just a matter of executing it on Friday.''

The individual championships are Saturday, and Oklahoma should be strong there, too, with a trio of outstanding seniors leading the way. Alec Robin is back after claiming national titles last year in the floor and the vault, and Michael Squires is a two-time defending national champion on the still rings. Michael Reid was second on the pommel horse last year.

Stanford is the No. 2 seed. The Sooners knocked off the Cardinal in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation meet, but Williams still considers them a threat. Akash Modi was the MPSF gymnast of the year for the second straight year. And Stanford has won five titles, most recently in 2011.

No. 3 seed Penn State is riding momentum after winning the Big Ten meet. Matthew Felleman, a senior, won the Big Ten all-around title.

Michigan, the two-time defending national champion, is seeded fourth under coach Kurt Golder, who also led the team to national titles in 1999 and 2010.

Williams said it's not really about the other teams. He said the Sooners should claim the title if they handle business.

''I still think that Stanford's a really good team,'' he said. ''I think they could be really good if they're really on. But I kind of feel like it's not about any school that's a rival to us, it's really about not trying to beat ourselves and just having the kind of night that we know can win a national championship.''

Williams said hosting the event should be an advantage. Michigan hosted last year's event and won the title.

''Yes, I think it does make a difference,'' Williams said. ''This is our fourth time that we've hosted. I think in the past, the crowd has been significant. The guys can draw from the energy from the crowd.''

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